The First Step in Financial Aid: Completing the FAFSA

To apply for federal financial aid, you must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and easier than ever, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.

You have three options for completing the FAFSA:

  1. Online at You’ll need to request a Federal Student Aid ID (FS AID) at It will serve as your electronic signature. In most cases, you’ll get your FSA ID instantly and be able to complete and sign your FAFSA right away.
  2. Download and complete a PDF FAFSA application. You will need to mail in your PDF FAFSA, and the processing will take longer than the online option.
  3. Request a paper FAFSA by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 319-337-5665. If you are hearing impaired, contact the TTY line at 1-800-730-8913.

The FAFSA is available on the federal website after Oct. 1 of each year. If you and your family need to submit the FAFSA ahead of filing your tax returns, you can use tax estimates. Then, when those tax returns are finalized, you must update the FAFSA.

Keep these tips in mind when completing the form:

  • Read the instructions carefully.
  • Complete the FAFSA every year, and apply early. Each school has its own priority filing dates, so be sure to check your school’s deadline. A late application can mean less financial aid for you.
  • Complete a FAFSA even if you don't think you qualify for financial aid, and even if you didn't qualify last year. Having a current FAFSA on record with your school will help the financial aid office consider your eligibility for all types of assistance.
  • Note that the FAFSA isn’t just for federal aid. Institutional, state, and private sources often elect to use FAFSA data to determine eligibility for aid.
  • Verify when asked. During processing, a school may ask you to submit proof of information you included on the FAFSA, such as a tax document. Respond promptly. Contact the financial aid office with any questions about verification.

Important reminder: You need to complete a new FAFSA for each school year in order to receive financial aid.

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