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9 FAQs About the FAFSA PIN

Jan. 18, 2013
Loans, Student Loans
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If you’re applying for financial aid for college, you may already know you’ll need a PIN.  Here’s a quick explainer on the Federal Student Aid PIN.

What is a Federal Student Aid PIN?

It’s a four-digit personal identification number that enables you to sign your FAFSA electronically and access your personal records on Federal Student Aid websites such as FAFSA on the Web, National Student Loan Data System and Direct Loan Consolidation. Along with your Social Security number, last name and date of birth, the PIN helps you confirm your identity. Since it’s used to access your personal records and form binding legal agreements, you should never share your PIN.

Do I need one?

A PIN is not strictly required to complete your FAFSA. You do have the option to print, sign and mail the signature page. But that takes a lot longer than signing electronically with a PIN. So although a PIN isn’t necessary, it’s advisable to have one and use it.

How do I get a FAFSA PIN?

You have to apply for a PIN. The application process is quick and consists of three easy steps. Step 1: Enter your personal information and choose a security question and answer. Step 2: Agree not to share your PIN with anyone else, and choose how you’d like to receive it (either displayed immediately on the page or sent to your email address). Step 3: Retrieve your PIN based on the method you’ve selected.

Is it activated immediately?

You can use your PIN right away to take advantage of the IRS data retrieval tool and to sign your FAFSA. But technically your PIN isn’t activated until the Social Security Administration verifies your information and your application is approved. That process usually takes one to three days after you apply. Once your PIN is activated, you can use it to correct your FAFSA, if necessary, and to access other Federal Student Aid sites.

What if I forget my FAFSA PIN?

If you forget your PIN, you have to request a duplicate. You’ll need to provide your Social Security number, last name and date of birth.

Can I change it?

Yes, and if someone else knows your PIN, then you should change it immediately.

Do parents need a FAFSA PIN?

If you’re a parent and want to sign the FAFSA electronically for your child, then you’ll need a PIN to do so. You can apply here. If you have multiple children applying for financial aid, you can use the same PIN to sign each application.

Does my FAFSA PIN expire?

Your PIN will expire if you don’t use it for 18 consecutive months. But it will remain active as long as you use it to access your record on any Federal Student Aid site, update your personal information, request a duplicate or change your PIN.

What if my last name changes?

Your PIN is attached to your last name, so it’s not possible to update it. You’ll have to apply for a new PIN to go with your new last name. But remember that your application won’t be approved until the Social Security Administration verifies the information, so make sure it has processed your name change before you apply for a new PIN. And if you need to access records attached your previous name, you can only use your old PIN to do so.