Applying for College Financial Aid

Published by Beth Schanou 

Now that January has arrived, those with college aged students are faced with the task of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA data gives a student access to financial aid and many states and colleges (public and private) use the data to determine eligibility for state and school aid. 

The FAFSA became available January 1st for the 201516 school year. To increase a student’s chances of receiving the best financial aid package for which they are eligible, it should be completed as soon as possible. Some schools have deadlines so pay attention to those. The application may be completed in paper form or online at by clicking the “Start A
New FAFSA” button for new users or the “Login” button for returning users.

Completing the FAFSA requires personal and financial information. If a student is considered a dependent student for purposes of federal student aid, parent information must be reported. Part of the financial information necessary on the application is derived from tax forms and when completing the 2015-16 FAFSA, 2014 tax information is required. Fortunately, it is permissible to estimate tax information if taxes have not yet been filed. If tax information is estimated, it is necessary to log back in to the FAFSA to correct the estimates. For those who file their taxes before completing the FAFSA, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool may allow electronic transfer of information directly into the application from the tax return.

By completing the FAFSA, a student is also applying for certain state financial aid. Sometimes a separate application is required to determine eligibility for state aid. Some states, however, have a partnership with FAFSA allowing the student to transfer information directly into the state aid application. If this option is available, a link will be present on the FAFSA confirmation page appearing after the application is signed and submitted. This information is typically not available on an emailed confirmation. It is normal to feel overwhelmed when thinking about FAFSA completion. Usually the biggest challenge is just getting started. It may also be reassuring to know the FAFSA does not have to be completed all at once. For additional tips and information, Federal Student Aid prepared this graphic (

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