What is FAFSA and why do you need it?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is often the main source of financial aid for GEAR UP students. The amount and type of financial aid a student receives through the FAFSA is based on how much annual income their household earned prior to applying, taking into consideration the household size and how many household members will be attending college. FAFSA money is awarded in three ways: Grants (free money), loans (borrowed money), and work-study (earned money). It is possible to be awarded all three, but we discourage accepting any loans if possible, which is discussed in more detail on our Planning for College page.
Some students might have circumstances (for example: undocumented families) that keep them from being able to complete the FAFSA application. Do not lose heart. There are still very good resources for paying for college for students in these situations. Please see our webpage about other sources of financial aid for DACA students.
Before You Begin the FAFSA
Before starting your FAFSA application, take a moment to review and complete the checklist below. Make sure to gather this required information. Doing so will ensure you can submit your FAFSA application without delay.
Use the FAFSA Guide Sheet to help you keep everything you will need in one place.
Things to Gather
To complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), you will need:
- Your Social Security Number
- Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
- Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned.
(Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
- Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
- Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
- An FSA ID to sign electronically.
If you are a dependent student, then you will also need most of the above information for your parent(s).
12 Most Common Mistakes
The Department of Education has out together a collection of the 12 most common mistakes that students and their parents make when filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Please take a moment to read of these to be sure that you do not make these easy to avoid blunders.
After you have Submitted
Five Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA Form:
- Review Your FAFSA Confirmation Page
- Review your Student Aid Report (SAR), which you will receive after your FAFSA application is processed
- Apply for as many scholarships as you can
- Be on the lookout for your aid offer(s)
- Make FAFSA corrections, if needed