The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is an important resource for students as they figure out how to pay for college. FAFSA is incredibly valuable to many students because it helps turn college dreams into realities. Though it might seem a little confusing, it can be successfully navigated with the right information and the right attitude.


When it comes to college, FAFSA is here to help. By calculating factors such as income and family contributions, FAFSA provides college students with different types of loans that help them cover college costs. Everyone’s financial aid package is different. Some students receive combinations of grants, scholarships and loans, and others only receive loans. It all depends on the financial situation of you and your parents or guardians. Click here to visit Georgia State’s page about the FAFSA and continue below for more advice on completing the FAFSA.

Complete the FASFA Early and Online

FAFSA operates on federal funding and acute deadlines. Students have the best chance at securing maximum funding when they submit their applications early. Applying online allows for faster processing times and increased accuracy because the FAFSA website is designed to catch errors as students fill in their answers. Think of it like this: time is money. If you complete your FAFSA on time, you give yourself the best opportunity to secure money for college. FAFSA applications open January 1.

Remember your FSA ID

The FSA ID replaced the FAFSA PIN in May 2015. This secure log-in was created to protect your information even better than the PIN. If you have a previously existing PIN you can link it to your new FSA ID. Try your best to remember your FSA ID since you’ll need it for subsequent school years when you request financial aid. And if you forget your password, don’t worry! Unlike the PIN, the FSA ID lets you reset your password through secure channels.

Gather the Required Documents

In order to determine a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid, the FAFSA will ask for information about the student’s and/or their family’s finances. Students will need their social security number, their parents’ social security numbers (if they are a dependent of their parents), the student’s driver’s license number (if they have one), their Alien Registration number if they are not a U.S. citizen, and federal tax information including tax returns for themselves and/or their parents. Don’t know who to use as your parent on the FAFSA? Look here for a helpful graphic.

Bonus tip: use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) to help you. It’s a quick and easy way to transfer information from your federal tax return directly into your FAFSA. You may be able to use the tool if you filed your taxes electronically at least two weeks before or if you filed on paper at least eight weeks before completing your FAFSA. If you file your FAFSA before your federal tax return information is available, you even can go back to your FAFSA and select the IRS DRT to update your tax information.

Set Aside Time to Work on the FAFSA Before College Deadlines

Working on the FAFSA often requires multiple sessions. Students can make this process easier on themselves if they schedule time to work on it well in advance of any deadlines related to the college application process. Don’t wait until the last moment to begin working on the FAFSA. You don’t want to make any errors in haste. Most students need to save and return to it multiple times in order to complete it. Working on it in advance gives you time to work through any questions that may arise as you fill out your application and get the appropriate help.

Know the Deadlines

Students should check and double-check the deadlines for each college they are applying to and make sure they adhere to these deadlines, including the submission of their FAFSA. Keep in mind that there are separate federal, state, and college financial aid deadlines that differ from school application deadlines.

For instance, Georgia State has an early application deadline on November 15 and a regular application deadline on March 1. Our financial aid deadline, however, is April 1, even though the national deadline is June 30. That means that while we want to gather your academic application information as soon as possible, between now and March, your FAFSA is not required until April.

Know Your School Codes

Once you have a good idea of where you want to go, figure out the school codes so that FAFSA can communicate with the appropriate school’s financial aid office. A school code will be a six-digit number that identifies the school. Make sure you verify your codes, so you know they are correct. For instance, Georgia State’s is 001574.