The FAFSA Financial Aid Process

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the application for federal financial aid (such as Pell Grants and Stafford Loans). While the FAFSA process may seem daunting, it’s much simpler if you know what to expect. To start your FAFSA, visit

How Your Financial Aid Eligibility is Determined

Submitting the FAFSA determines your eligibility for student aid by:

  • Applying a standard financial aid eligibility calculation to a student's and family's personal and financial information
  • Conducting checks with other government agencies (Social Security Administration and Selective Service for example) to ensure the applicant is eligible for federal student aid.
  • Electronically forwarding a Student Aid Report (SAR) to the school/schools specified by the applicant.

The information on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to calculate your financial aid award. Your selected schools will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which details your financial status, including your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). EFC is the total amount of money that you and your family are expected to contribute to your education based on your family's financial state. The formula for this is fairly complicated (approximately 40 pages of math!) but it boils down to:

School cost - scholarships - federal financial aid - federal student loans - other sources of financing = your EFC

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What You Need to Apply

For the 2014-2015 school year, you will need financial information from 2013. Here are some items you should have on hand when you begin your FAFSA:

  • Your Social Security Number (can be found on Social Security card)
  • Your driver's license (if any)
  • Your 2013 W-2 Forms and other records of money earned
  • Your (and your spouse's, if you are married) 2013 Federal Income Tax Return
  • Your parents' 2013 Federal Income Tax Return (if you are a dependent student)
  • Your 2013untaxed income records - Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, welfare, or veterans benefits records
  • Your current bank statements
  • Your current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond, and other investment records
  • Your alien registration or permanent residence card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • The FAFSA school codes for the school to which you are applying

After Submitting the FAFSA

Once you submit the FAFSA to the Department of Education, your EFC and other requirements of aid eligibility will be processed and forwarded to the schools you indicated. You will receive the SAR, from the Department of Education that allows you to review the information provided on the application and make corrections to the information - if needed. Also, be careful of misspellings such as FASFA and FASA.

File a FAFSA Every Year

The FAFSA is not just for students applying to college for the first time; it should be done every year. Even though your financial situation may not have changed since last year, you still need to complete a FAFSA Renewal.

Next Step: Review your Student Aid Report (SAR)