• FAFSA Step-by-Step Process

    Click each step below for detailed instructions.


    The FAFSA Process

    Below, excellent video of the FAFSA process.

    Texas Colleges: FAFSA/TASFA Priority Deadlines
    Step 01: Gather Documents and create FSA ID
    Step 02: Completing the FAFSA and checking your SAR (EFC).
    Step 03: Follow up after FAFSA submission and Verification.
    Step 04: Accepting your Award Letter.

    Frequently Asked Questions:
    What is the Department of Education?
    The Department of Education is over Federal Financial Aid and manages the FAFSA website. However, once you submit your FAFSA, you will work with your college’s financial aid office.
    What is the Financial Aid Office?
    Each college has a financial aid office. This is one of the most important offices on a college campus. Each financial aid office will have a website portal on your college’s main website. You will need to become very familiar with your college’s financial aid website. This is how you track the process of your financial aid award process [verification], view your award letter, and accept or decline your financial aid awards.
    What is a Priority Deadline?
    The priority deadline is the date you must file your FAFSA to receive priority consideration in the financial aid awarding process. In other words, you put yourself at the front of the line for financial aid! If you miss a FAFSA priority deadline you can still apply and mostly certainly should apply for financial aid. For many colleges, the priority deadline is January 15.  Check your college’s financial aid website to find when its financial aid priority deadline. Because the Texas Grant is limited, it is essential for you to meet your college’s priority deadline to maximize your chance to receive this generous grant.

    Are you ready?

    Click on the "Next" button below and lets get started!

    Gathering Documents

    Step 1: Gathering Documents and FSA ID

    Do I have to Provide My Parents Tax Information on the FAFSA? Click image to enlarge.

    Apply for your FSA ID for you and one parent at https://studentaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm .

    The following information is needed to complete your FAFSA:

      Social Security number for you and your parents
      DOB for you and your parents.
      Date (month/year) your parents were married or divorced.
      Your family’s 2018 tax returns (1040) and W-2
      Permanent Residency card if not a citizen.

    Frequently Asked Questions:
    I cannot get my FSA ID application to be accepted.
    There could be several reasons for this, especially if you became a permanent resident or citizen in the last few years. The best way to resolve this is to call the Federal Student Aid Office at 1-800-433-3243.
    My parent cannot remember their FSA ID.
    Your parents should go to https://studentaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm and select the Manage My FSA ID tab to recover the username and password.
    What if my parents will not complete their taxes this year?
    If there are extenuating circumstances, such as your parents are retired or are receiving disability through Social Security, then you are not expected to supply tax information on the FAFSA. You will put zero for their income and most likely be asked by your college financial aid office to submit a low-income verification document, which they will supply.

    However, if your parents are required to submit a tax returns then you will need them to submit their taxes; otherwise, you risk not having your FAFSA processed.

    My parents will file their taxes after the priority deadline.
    You can still complete the FAFSA. Most college receive ample federal financial aid. However, state and college financial aid (especially grants) is extremely limited, and it’s essential that you meet your college’s financial aid priority deadline.
    I do not live with my parents. Do I need to supply their tax information?
    Yes, unless you meet one of the categories that allows you to be classified as INDEPENDENT of your parent:. at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, or someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Click Determining Dependency Status for an Excellent Chart.
    What if my parent does not have a social security number?
    That is not a problem. You will enter 0’s for their social security number, which will alert Federal Financial Aid that your parents do not have a SS#. Also, your parents can still file an income tax, using a Tax ID number.

    Complete the FAFSA

    Step 2: Completing your FAFSA and checking your SAR (EFC)

    Start your FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov

    The 6 parts of a FAFSA Application. Click each step for important hints on completing the FAFSA

    Student Eligibility
    1. Complete the FAFSA for the year you will start college.
    2. If you are a permanent resident, refugee, or have an approved asylum case, click [No, but I am an eligible noncitizen].
    3. Your driver’s license is optional.
    4. Males make sure to click [Register me] for selective service. If you do NOT, you will not receive financial aid.
    5. Graduating seniors should choose never attended college/1st year even if they took dual credit and AP classes.
    6. Always consider clicking [YES] that you are interested in work-study. This is a great way to make extra money for college while attending classes.
    School Selection
    Make sure to add your college(s) or you will not receive financial aid and choose your [housing plan].
    Dependency Status
    1. If you answer [Yes] to any question here you will be classified as a [independent student]. You will not be required to supply income or tax information for your parents.
    2. If you answer [No] to all of the questions you will be classified as a [dependent student] and you will need to include your parents on your FAFSA.
    3. If you answered [No] on all of the questions but feel you are really an [independent student] you will need to complete a [dependency override] with your financial aid office. You must present a compelling reason for not including your parents’ financial information.
    4. If you do not live with your parents, check with your high school counselor to see if you might can be classified as an unaccompanied minor. The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children as "individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence."
    5. If you qualify under McKenney-Vento, then you will be classified as an ‘independent student’ and will not be required to provide your parents’ tax information. You will work with your financial aid office since they will verify that you high school classified you as an unaccompanied minor.
    Parent Demographics
    If your parents do not have a social security number, put 0’s for their number. Do NOT enter their TAX ID number.
    Financial Information
    1. IF your parents have not completed their 2018 1040 (tax return) you might consider choosing [will file] and using their tax information from 2017. If you choose this option, you will be directed to the [Income Estimator]. You will complete your parent’s financial information section and you can even submit your FAFSA The advantage of this is that it can allow you to meet your college’s financial aid priority deadline.
    2. The only disadvantage is that you will need to do a FAFSA Correction once your parents have completed their 2018 (tax return).
    3. If your parents will not file a tax return you will still be asked how much income they earned for 2018. If they received state and/or federal benefits or retirement, they will put 0 for income. However, your parents will need to supply to your college’s financial aid office verification of these benefits (generally a year end statement).
    4. VERY IMPORTANT [Data Retrieval Tool]. If you parents
      • filed their taxes and did not amended [added additional information at a later time] AND
      • your parents filed their tax returns within 2 weeks electronically
      Then you link your parents tax returns to the IRS data retrieval tool. This will decrease the time your FAFSA is processed and will drastically reduce you being pulled in for verification.
    5. If you mother and father worked, MAKE SURE TO SPLIT THEIR INCOMES. If you mother made 24,000 and your father 20,000, don’t put that they each made 44,000.
    6. If you were not able to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool, use the helpful information on the right side of your FAFSA.
    Sign, Submit & SAR
    1. If you parents do not have a social security number, you will click [Other options to sign and submit] . At the bottom of the page, you will click [PRINT SIGNATURE PAGE]. One of your parents will complete, and he/she will mail it to the Department of Education.
    2. Remember that each time you make a correction or add a college to your FAFSA, one of your parents must sign with a FSA ID and if they do not have a SS# they will sign a paper [PRINT SIGNATURE PAGE].
    3. Once you have submitted your FAFSA print and review your confirmation page. Look for your EFC.This is the amount your parents are expected to contribute to your education.
    4. Check to make sure you have all of the college your are thinking of attending listed. If there is a missing school, you will need to do a FAFSA correction.
    5. Look at the graduation rates of the college you applied to. The higher the graduation rate, the more likely it will be that you will graduate from college.

    Frequently Asked Questions:
    What if the FAFSA cannot verify my parents’ social security number?
    There could be several reasons for this, especially if your parents recently became a permanent resident or citizen in the last few years. The best way to resolve this is to call the Federal Student Aid Office at 1-800-433-3243.
    I could not get my parents taxes to link with the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Help!

    Go through this check list before calling the Federal Student Aid Office at 1-800-433-3243

    1. Check their filing status on their tax return.
    2. Make sure the address matches the one on their tax return.

    Follow up/Verification

    Step 3: Follow Up and Verification

    What is Verification

    What do I do after I have submitted my FAFSA?
    You will log back into your FAFSA account 24 to 48 hours to see if your FAFSA has been processed. If it has been, you will download and review your SAR (Student Aid Report).

    If you have made any errors, correct them and log back in 24 hours later to see if your FAFSA has been processed.

    What is a Student Aid Report (SAR)?
    Your Student Aid Report (SAR) is a paper or electronic document that gives you basic information about your financial aid.
    How do I interpret my SAR?

    The Student Aid Report will contain three important items you MUST check.

    1. FAFSA Status: processed, errors found, or additional information needed.
    2. You EFC [estimated family contribution].
    3. If you have been selected for verification, which means you will supply additional forms or tax information to your college’s financial aid office.
    What is Verification?
    1. Verification is a process to confirm the information you provided on the FAFSA is correct..
    2. Verification selection can be random or you may be required if your FAFSA data was incomplete, estimated or inconsistent.
    3. The U.S. Department of Education selects some students for the verification process. Others are selected if your college’s financial aid office finds conflicting information.
    How do I know if I have been flagged (verification)?
    If you have an * after your EFC on your Student Aid Report, then you have been flagged for verification.
    Okay, I’ve been flagged for Verification. What next?
    1. You will contact your college’s financial aid office. Follow these steps.
      • Check your email to see if your college financial aid office has sent you information about why you were verified and what to do next.
      • Check your college financial aid account. Often this is how your financial aid office will let you know why and what to do about verification.
      • Call or stop by your college financial aid office. You will want to find out exactly what they need from you.
    2. You will need to turn in specific documents, such as a tax transcript or social security end of your statement if you parents are retired.

    Frequently Asked Questions:
    My SAR was not processed. Why?
    This generally happens when the Department of Education has found an error in information you provided. You will need to make a correction to your FAFSA. After you correct your FAFSA information , check back 24 hours later. If you still cannot get your FAFSA to process, call the Federal Student Aid Office at 1-800-433-3243.
    Why is someone flagged for Verification?
    1. You estimated your parents income because they had not already completed their taxes.
    2. You were not able to connect your parents tax information with the IRS Data tool [most common].
    3. You have been randomly selected.
    How do I order a tax transcript?
    What is a Dependent/Independent Verification Worksheet?

    When you are flagged for verification, colleges will ask that you complete what is called a Dependent Verification Worksheet or an Independent Verification Worksheet. Most colleges create their own Verification Worksheets. You can pick these up at your college financial aid office or download them from your college’s financial aid website.

    Verification sheets ask the same questions. They will ask for your parents’ income or source of financial assistance, such as social security benefits. You and your parents will need to sign the worksheet and you MUST turn them back in to receive financial aid!

    Your Award Letter

    Understanding Your Award Leter video.

    Click below to see a sample award letter.

    Step 4: Accepting your Award Letter

    What is an Award Letter?
    After your FAFSA has been processed you will receive an award letter from each college you have been accepted to detailing how much financial aid you will receive.
    When and how will I receive my Award Letter?

    In the old days, colleges mailed an award letter to a student. Now, colleges expect you to log into your financial aid account and review your award letter online.

    You should expect your award letter 4 to 8 weeks after your FAFSA has been processed. Remember, that before a college will send/create an award letter for you, you must FIRST clear up any verification issues.

    If you do not receive an email from your college’s financial aid office in 4 weeks, you should contact them and find out why you have not received an award letter.

    How do I accept my Award Letter?

    First, if you do not accept your award letter the college will assume you do not want financial aid. In other words, you won’t get any money!

    Log into your college financial aid account and go to a section (generally called) award letter or accept award offers.

    You will have the opportunity to accept or not accept your financial aid. You can accept all or part of your financial aid offer. If you do not want to take out loans, then you can decline them.
    When do I get my financial aid and how do I pay for classes?

    Once you accept your financial aid , funds will be moved into your college account. You will also receive a college debt card in the mail, which will allow you to pay for books.

    When you register for classes (sign up), you will be asked how do you wish to pay. You can apply your financial aid at this point.

    Frequently Asked Questions:
    Do I have to accept loans?
    No you do NOT. A good rule of thumb is NOT to take out more than $5,000 a year in loans.
    What if I don’t have enough grant (free money) to pay for college?
    1. Contact your college’s financial aid office and explain to them your situation (you need additional grant funding to pay for college). If you parents have experienced financial hardships in the past few months, the college might lower your EFC.
    2. Consider less expensive schools. If you were accepted to a private school and will have to take out thousands in loans a year then you might consider a state college or attending a community college the first two years.

  • Types of Financial Aid

    You and your family can choose from many different types of financial aid. Some are based on financial need, and some on academic performance. Click here to learn about the different types of aid.

    Learn More