FAFSA 2018-19 - Guide to Get Free Money for College

FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is one of the ways to get financing for your college education. In this article, we will talk about what is actually FAFSA, whether it is worth for you to apply for it, and how to do it. After all, you will get an actionable step-by-step guide on getting started with FAFSA.


What Is FAFSA?

As we have just pointed out above, FAFSA stands Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Basically, this is a form that different organizations (colleges, states, the federal government, and others) use in order to award financial aid for education. Submitting such a form is necessary for being eligible to access work-study programs, scholarships, grants, and federal student loans.

As you can understand, completing a FAFSA form is the first step for a student to make college plans. Based on the completion of this form, you will be able to seek financial aid to get the education you want. The overall process of completing this form is not so long, as it may take from 30 to 40 minutes of your time.

How to Get Free Money for College

The first thing to point out is that applying for college and applying for financial aid are two completely different types of applications. Even though they sometimes might go one along another, in fact, they are not the same thing. The application process for financial aid typically has its own deadlines, requirements, and forms.

We should also stress the following: you don’t have to postpone applying for financial aid until you get enrolled in a college. In fact, we highly advise you to consider applying for financial help for your education before actually getting enrolled in a college.

In particular, there are three main sources of money for college:

So, before you will start looking for financial aid, you should fill out FAFSA,  a form that is usually by all organizations that provide education grants. Once you submit this form, you will get access to the largest pool of financial donors and organizations that provide education grants.

Do You Really Need FAFSA?

But before you will proceed to filling out the FAFSA form, you should ask yourself: “Do I really need financing from FAFSA?” Oftentimes, these grants and other financial aid come with certain obligations, and you shouldn’t be well aware of that. Besides, it may take a while until you find a financial donor with FAFSA.

Therefore, you should analyze whether there are any other, easier sources of financing of your education. Even though FAFSA is really free (don’t be fooled by the companies that offer to fill it out for you), you may have far more accessible sources of funding your education. Make sure to check them out first.

Step-By-Step Guide to Completing FAFSA

As we have pointed out in this article a number of times, you should complete the FAFSA form. This opens up amazing opportunities for you that allow you to get financial aid for your education. At this point of our page, we will provide you with a step-by-step guide to completing your FAFSA form.

1. Get Your FSA ID

The first thing you have to do is to register on the website of FSA and get your Federal Student Aid ID. Our “Create FSA ID” guide below shows how to get your FSA ID step by step. This will allow you to access the information about your financial aid for the following years, as well as any info regarding the loans you have to pay after your graduation.

If you are a dependent student, your guardian or parent will have to use his/her FSA ID.

2. Collect Required Documents

The list of documents you need to collect depends on what type of a student you are: whether you are a U.S. student or not and whether you are an independent student or not. Here, we will provide the list of all necessary documents for every type of student.

Documents for U.S. citizens and independent students:

Documents for U.S. citizens and dependent students:

Documents for foreign citizens and independent students:

Documents for foreign citizens and dependent students:

3. Answer FAFSA Questions

Depending on your family structure and status, the information you provide to FAFSA may slightly differ. You should provide the required information and make sure that it is valid. The FAFSA website provides you with all the necessary tips/guidelines on how to complete it.

There are the following types of family structure for independent students that may change the required information:

Additionally, the types of family structure for dependent students may be the following ones:

There are also the following types of status for non-U.S. citizens:

4. Make Use of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

You are able to speed up the application process and avoid making mistakes by transferring the information about your federal tax return right into the FAFSA account. You can do this by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. When you will get to see the financial information part of your FAFSA account, you should click on the “Link to IRS” button there and prefill the form automatically.

5. Provide a List of Colleges You Intend to Apply For

While completing your FAFSA form, you will be asked to provide the information (the codes) of up to 10 colleges you plan to apply for. In short, you should just know the names of the colleges where you want to get enrolled. You will be able to get the codes of those colleges on the FAFSA website, so you shouldn’t worry about that.

If you submit a paper version of the FAFSA form, there you will have an opportunity to point only 4 colleges. If you have failed to find the codes of those colleges, you can find them here.

In case you don’t know where you are going to apply yet, you should list the colleges you favor in terms of applying. Whenever you will change your mind about the colleges, you will be able to update this information on your FAFSA account.


If you already have an account with FAFSA, you can log in to your account anytime. This will allow you to track your progress with getting financial aid. Apart from that, you will also be able to change information about you and apply for new grants. In order to make a FAFSA login gov, please follow the guidelines below.

FAFSA Login as Parent

If you are a parent of a student who is registered with FAFSA, you can make FAFSA login as a parent. This means that you will not have to know your son’s/daughter’s account and password in order to sign in. This part of our page will demonstrate how to log in to FAFSA account as a parent.

Create Your FSA ID

As we have pointed out in this article above, one of the first things you should do is to create your FSA ID. The process of creating your FSA ID is really quick and takes no more than five minutes of your time – the most important thing is to fill out your account and FAFSA form thereafter. Follow the guidelines below in order to create your FSA ID.

Recover FAFSA Password

If you want to sign in to your FAFSA account but you don’t remember your password (or username), that’s definitely not a problem. In a case of such necessity, you are able to recover your FAFSA password or username. At this point of our page, we will show you that you can easily recover your password with FAFSA.

FAFSA Submitted. What’s Next?

After you have created an FSA ID and fill out the FAFSA form, it doesn’t mean that you will easily get financing and you can sit still thereafater. There are other actions that you can take in order to improve your chances of getting affordable financing for your education. In this part of our article, we will describe what can you do after submitting your FAFSA form.

Fill out additional forms for financial aid. There may also happen a situation that a college you want to apply for requires more than completed form for financial aid. Check out what forms are required to be filled out by your college. There is another popular form required by many grant programs, which is known as CSS/Financial Aid Profile. Apart from there, they may have other financial aid forms that you will have to fill in.

Review the Student Aid Report. After submitting your FAFSA form, you will receive a summary of the information that you provided to FAFSA by email. It will take from 2-3 days to a week to receive it. Then, you should log in to your FAFSA account (read how to do it above) and make sure that you have made no mistakes while completing this form. If there are any, correct those mistakes.

Update the FAFSA form of yours when necessary. Whenever your dependency status changes, some things occur in your family that change the family structure, or you want to add or delete a college, you should immediately make these changes to your FAFSA. You can do it by logging in to your FAFSA account and selecting “Make FAFSA corrections.”

Once selected, go through a verification process. If you are selected, you will get a notification from a college’s financial aid notice. Typically, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have made a mistake while completing the form. Some colleges require all students to go through the verification process, while other colleges randomly select students to undertake this procedure.

Have a look at your financial aid award package. Once you have received acceptance letters from your college, you will get financial aid from each financial institution. That financial aid will contain both need-based and non-need-based federal and state financing. Perhaps, there might be some financial aid from the college itself. In either case, you should check these options and we recommend you to favor such financial aid over the student loans – they, after all, come with relatively high interest rates.

You can appeal for higher awards. The FAFSA form is a formality, which oftentimes does not show the entire picture. You might be in a need for more funds than the form shows. In such a case, we recommend you to appeal the financial aid award, explaining your current situation. There is no guarantee that you will get this financial help, but it is definitely worth to try.

Keep your FAFSA renewed while in college. Every year, you will have to renew your FAFSA form, if you want to keep receiving financial aid. Sometimes, some additional questions may appear in the form. Even though the form will have prefilled answers from your FAFSA form of the previous years, we recommend you to be careful about it and make sure that the information you submit tends to be up to date.