If the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is your gateway to federal student aid, then the FSA ID is the key to that gateway. It’s a vital part of the aid process, but, like submitting a form at the Department of Motor Vehicles, it isn’t always as cut and dried as you’d like.
Here’s what you should know about the FSA ID:
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What is the FSA ID?
Your FSA ID consists of two elements — a username and a password — that you and your parents will use to log in to federal student aid websites, such as fafsa.ed.gov, studentloans.gov, the National Student Loan Data System and My Federal Student Aid. You’ll also use it to electronically sign the FAFSA and promissory notes, and signal the completion of entrance and exit counseling.
You don’t need an FSA ID to fill out the FAFSA, but you do need one to sign and submit the form electronically. Without one, you’ll need to print, sign and mail the FAFSA signature page to submit your application, a much longer process.
You also need an FSA ID to access your student loan records and make changes to your FAFSA online.
To create an FSA ID, simply visit the Federal Student Aid website. You’ll need to provide an email address, select a username and password, and enter your full name, date of birth and Social Security number.
You can apply for an FSA ID at any time, so there’s no need to wait until you fill out your FAFSA. If you do wait until then, however, you will be prompted to apply for one before you submit the form.
Yes and no. You can use your FSA ID right away to sign and submit your FAFSA electronically, but you’ll need to wait a few days to use it for other purposes, such as signing a promissory note. If you already have a FAFSA personal identification number, though, you can link it to your new FSA ID and start using the ID right away.
If you’re applying for financial aid as a dependent, one of your parents will be required to sign the FAFSA. In that case, he or she needs a unique FSA ID to sign electronically. Not sure if you’re considered dependent or independent? Check out this flowchart from the Department of Education.
No problem. Just go to the login page on any of the federal student loan websites and select “Forgot Username” or “Forgot Password” to reset your credentials. From there, you can either answer three challenge questions or request a secure code. If you choose the latter, the code will be sent to the email provided when you created your FSA ID.
Yes. And you should update your details as soon as possible if your email, mailing address or contact phone number changes. Just visit the Federal Student Aid website and select “Edit My FSA ID.” You can also use this tab to update your challenge questions, change your password or disable or enable your FSA ID.
Your username does not expire. But your password expires every 18 months, unless you change it more often.
The Department of Education officially retired the PIN on May 10, 2015. If you haven’t logged in to the FSA website since then, your PIN will no longer work and you’ll need to create a more secure FSA ID. If you associate your PIN with your new FSA ID, you’ll save the one to three days that it usually takes for the Social Security Administration to verify your information.
Updated Sept. 9, 2016.