How to apply for fafsa

In the world of financial aid, the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is king. So, what is the FAFSA? It is a critical set of forms that determine whether a student is eligible for federal grants and loans, and is used by schools during the crafting of a student’s financial aid package.

If a student doesn’t submit their federal student aid FAFSA forms in a timely manner, they might miss out on free money. Why? Because certain kinds of funding are provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. That means, even if a student qualifies, if their application isn’t received in time, the money could be gone.

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Step 1: Complete the 2019-20 FAFSA Weeks Before December 15, 2018* FAFSA and Applying for Aid at UF – View on YouTube

Applying for financial aid at UF begins with the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Complete the FAFSA at You can file a 2019-20 FAFSA as early as October 1, 2018. UF’s “On-Time” deadline to receive the results of your 2019-20 FAFSA from the federal processor is December 15, 2018.

You can file a 2018-19 FAFSA as early as October 1, 2017. UF’s “On-Time” deadline to receive the results of your 2018-19 FAFSA from the federal processor is December 15, 2017.

Apply well before the deadline to ensure that the federal processor has time to analyze and send the results of your FAFSA to our office. Financial aid is awarded on a first come, first served basis so apply as early as possible to be considered for the most, and best aid.

*In order for us to consider you for a financial aid package, you must be a degree-seeking admitted student and have met the “On-Time” deadline. We must receive the results of your 2019-20 FAFSA with a valid EFC (Expected Family Contribution) by December 15, 2018 for you to be considered “On-Time.”

  • Create an FSA ID at the Federal Student Aid’s ID site. Follow the instructions on the site. An FSA ID gives you access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems and can serve as your legal signature. If you’re a dependent student, your parents must also obtain an FSA ID.
  • Go to http://www.fafsa.ed.govhttp://www.fafsa.ed.govFAFSA on the Web. Follow the instructions on the site.
  • List the University of Florida and the UF Federal School Code (001535) as a school choice in Step Six of the FAFSA.
  • Sign your FAFSA. Students can sign electronically using their FSA ID. Parents of dependent students may sign electronically but must first obtain their own FSA ID.
  • Don’t forget to reapply each year, financial aid is not renewed automatically.

Get free assistance and answers to your FAFSA questions at or 1-800-433-3243.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status is conferred by the USCIS office in the Department of Homeland Security. While students granted DACA are normally assigned a Social Security number, they are not eligible for Title IV aid. students should refer to their academic unit or our search engine for possible scholarship options.

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Step 2: Verify the Information

Once you have submitted your FAFSA successfully, be aware of the confirmation page that displays. This page contains important information, including:

  • Your unique confirmation number
  • Your unique Data Release Number (DRN)
  • A summary of what will happen next in your financial aid application
  • A summary of federal aid that you MAY be eligible for, including amounts.

You should print the confirmation page and keep it for your records.

Once your FAFSA has been successfully processed by the federal processor, you will receive a Federal Student Aid Report (SAR) from the federal processor after you submit your FAFSA, either by email or by USPS. If you provided an e-mail address, you should receive your SAR as soon as 24 hours after your FAFSA is processed.

  • The SAR indicates your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is used to determine your eligibility for financial aid.
  • The SAR also lists information you recorded on your FAFSA. Review the SAR for any inaccuracies. If no corrections are needed, keep the SAR with your financial aid records.
  • If any corrections are necessary, go to http://fafsa.ed.govFAFSA on the Web and select “Make Corrections to a Processed FAFSA.” If UF is not listed in the SAR’s “College Release Section,” correct your SAR to include UF. UF’s school code is 001535.
  • If your e-mail or mailing address changes, update it with the federal processor using FAFSA on the Web. This will ensure that you get your Student Aid Report, electronic PIN, Renewal Reminder, and other important correspondence.

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How Does FAFSA Work?

The FAFSA provides students with access to various funding sources based on specific eligibility requirements. When a student submits an application, their expected family contribution (EFC) is calculated.

What is the EFC?

The Expected Family Contribute (EFC) is a dollar amount that is calculated after your student completes their FAFSA. It’s a reflection of what the system believes your family can afford and is used to determine your student’s eligibility for a variety of financial aid products, like grants and loans.

An EFC is determined based on data from four key areas: parental income and assets (with some exceptions below), and student income and assets.

Effectively, each area is used for one calculation on the FAFSA, and then the four results are reviewed together to make a determination.

If you want in-depth information on the EFC calculation, the US Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Office has you covered. You can review the information here: The EFC Formula

Can You Get Federal Grants for College by Completing the FAFSA?

Yes, students can potentially gain access to federal grants by completing the FAFSA. Often, it is the most coveted for of financial aid.

Grants are considered free money (meaning you don’t have to pay it back!) that can be used for a range of educational expenses including tuition and books.  For your student to receive a grant, you must meet certain criteria like falling below certain FAFSA income limits based on your family size.

Is FAFSA a Loan Since You Can Qualify for Federal Student Loans?

While the FAFSA can make a student eligible for federal student loans, the FAFSA itself is not a loan application. Instead, it determines whether students qualify for specific kinds of financial aid, including grants and loans.

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Federal student loans are not free money, as they have to be paid back in accordance with your loan agreement.  However, the interest rates are typically lower than the student loans you can find through traditional lenders, like banks and credit unions.

Federal student loans come in two forms: subsidized and unsubsidized.  Subsidized loans offer better terms including:

  • No interest while your student is enrolled in school at least half-time
  • No interest during the six-month grace period after your student leaves school
  • No interest during a period of deferment

Unsubsidized loans do not provide any of the “no interest” benefits offered by subsidized loans, making them more costly over the long-term.  While subsidized loans are need-based awards, families that do not qualify for grants can still often qualify for at least this type of loan which saves students tens of thousands of dollars. Unsubsidized loans can be available without having to demonstrate financial need.

The interest rates for subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans are set by the government, so you don’t have to shop around to find the best deal.  For loans disbursed between July 1, 2018, and July 1, 2019, the interest rates are 5.05 percent for direct subsidized loans for undergraduates and 5.05 for direct unsubsidized loans for undergraduates.  These rates are subject to change for new loans issued after July 1, 2019, but this does not affect the interest rates on loans that have already been issued.

How Do I Qualify for FAFSA?

If you’re wondering who qualifies for FAFSA, the answer is practically everyone attending a college in the US, including citizens (usually anyone with a Social Security number) and eligible non-citizens.

FAFSA Qualifications

Here is a complete list of FAFSA eligibility requirements for federal student aid as set by the Department of Education:

  • Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States.
  • Have a valid Social Security Number. (Students from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau are exempt from this requirement.)
  • Have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or have completed homeschooling. If you don’t, you may still be eligible for federal student aid if you were enrolled in college or career school prior to July 1, 2012. Go to for additional information.
  • Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate.
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
  • Not owe a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a federal student loan.
  • Register (or already be registered) with the Selective Service System, if you are a male and not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. (Students from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau are exempt from registering; see for more information.)
  • Not have a conviction for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, work-study, or loans). If you have such a conviction, you must complete the Student Aid Eligibility Worksheet to determine if you are eligible for aid or partially eligible for aid.
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For specific kinds of federal financial aid, there can be additional requirements, such as falling within specific income limits. However, those are not a requirement for completing the FAFSA itself.

FAFSA Income Limits

There is no income limit for completing the FAFSA, so anyone who otherwise is eligible can (and should!) complete the application.

However, a student’s income (or their family income, if they are a dependent) may limit their access to specific kinds of aid, such as whether they can receive a Federal Pell Grant to help pay for college.

What Do I Need to Fill Out the FAFSA?

To fill out the FAFSA properly, your student is going to need a lot of information. Plus, if they are a dependent, they don’t just need specific documents that cover their situation, but their parents as well.

Usually, students need the following to complete the FAFSA:

  • Social Security Number(s)
  • Driver’s License or Government-Issued ID Number
  • Alien Registration Number (for non-US citizens)
  • Federal Tax Returns and W-2s
  • Bank Statements
  • Investment Records
  • Untaxed Income Records (child support, interest income, veterans non-education benefits, etc.)

With the right documents available, it takes around 30 minutes to complete the FAFSA first time. Each year after, the process tends to be quicker, as certain information can carry over from one year to the next.

Filling out FAFSA for financial aid


This season, FAFSA has created a new tool to help ease the application process; a new mobile app called myStudentAid. The app is available for iOS and Android and helps give students and families access to the application on the go!

Not only is this app an option for applying for the FAFSA, but is a great resource for current college students to check their aid totals. Parents and students can also ‘chat’ within the app, keeping all your conversations about financial aid organized.

While you can apply for FAFSA using the app, we suggest that high school seniors and first-time FAFSA users use the traditional desktop version of the FAFSA to apply. It is important to fully understand each question, and the desktop version allows for a broader view of the application.

Finally, FAFSA rolled out a few interfaces changes on their website. If you are returning to apply for FAFSA again, you’ll notice that the home page has a new layout, designed to direct you to the correct FAFSA application. Within the forms, there is one color formatting change to be aware of. In the past, student and parent information have been highlighted in 2 different colors. Now, each page uses the same navy blue color. Be extra vigilant while you’re applying that you answer questions based on student and parent in the correct sections!

In the end, completing the FAFSA is actually pretty easy, and it’s definitely a must-do for every college student.

And remember, the FAFSA form must be completed EVERY YEAR, so make sure your child puts it on their schedule to get it handle when the next year’s application period opens.

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