NerdWallet's

FAFSA GUIDE

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a form the government uses to determine the types and amount of financial aid you might qualify for. Fill it out each year you’re in college to be considered for grants, loans and work-study programs.

The FAFSA is your key to unlocking financial aid from federal, state, college and other sources. Plus, it only takes half an hour on average to complete when you’re prepared. Let’s get started.

 Step 1: Get your FSA ID

You need a Federal Student Aid ID to sign and submit the FAFSA. And if you’re a dependent student, your parent also needs a separate, unique FSA ID. The FSA ID approach replaced the FAFSA PIN in May 2015. Follow the instructions on the Federal Student Aid website to create a new FSA ID or to transfer the information from your FAFSA PIN to your new ID.

Get your FSA ID


Step 2: Gather necessary documents

Get organized before you fill out the FAFSA so you don’t need to search for financial information as you complete the form. Our interactive checklist will tell you which documents you’ll want to have handy before you start.

FAFSA Checklist


Step 3: Answer FAFSA questions with help from our guide

How you fill out the FAFSA depends on your family circumstances. Our guide has tips on what financial information to provide based on your situation, and where to get additional help if you need it.

Choose the option below that best applies to you for guidance on how to answer each question on the FAFSA.

My parents are married

I have a non-traditional family

I don’t depend on one or both parents

I have an unusual immigration status

Step 4: Start your application