Edited by Susan Sullivan | February 26, 2018
Finding ways to pay for college can weigh on the minds of parents and students. But there are more sources of financial aid to help than you may think! Here are some ideas, tips, and suggestions for completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Getting started with the FAFSA
Start by completing the FAFSA (FAFSA). For most students, federal aid like grants, work-study funding, and loans is the largest source of funding for college. Universities, colleges, and scholarship providers also use your FAFSA information to determine your level of need.
At first glance, you may feel like you need help with FAFSA itself—but it’s not as complex as it may appear.
Completing the FAFSA online is relatively easy, but it helps to have standard information like your social security numbers and tax returns on hand before you get started. The FAFSA does include an IRS data retrieval tool (DRT), however, which makes providing financial information much easier.
If you live with your parents, both you and a parents should register for your own FAFSA IDs. If you do not live with your parents, or if you plan to pay for college on your own without help from your parents, be sure you indicate this in the dependency status section on the FAFSA application.
Parents and guardians often complete the FAFSA on behalf of their student. If this describes you, please remember that words like “you” and “your” on the FAFSA usually refer to the student (not your parent or guardian). If you’re not sure, check whether the page you’re on has a “parent” or a “student” banner at the top.
Both you and your parents will digitally “sign” the FAFSA before submitting it. The easiest way to do this is to enter your FAFSA IDs.
- If your parent completes the FAFSA for you, he or she will log in using their ID.
- Then they will log out and you will log in to enter your FAFSA ID.
FAFSA filing optionsThere are three ways to complete your FAFSA
- About 98 percent of all FAFSA applications are completed online.
- Completing the FAFSA online is recommended but if you don’t have reliable Internet access or computer time, you can complete a paper FAFSA.
- Download and print the 2018-19 FAFSA.
If you are unable to download and print a copy, FAFSA will mail you one. Just call 1-800-4-FED-AID or, if you are hearing impaired, call the TTY line at 1-800-730-8913.
If you go the “snail mail” route, be sure to allow plenty of time—especially if you need the application mailed to you first.
Still have questions or concerns? Read the Parent’s Guide to Completing the FAFSA. There are also a number of third-party tutorials for completing the FAFSA, like this tutorial from Edvisors.
In terms of other financial aid resources, your state’s higher education office is also an invaluable resource. Most states offer scholarships, grants, and financial aid for students who live in that state.
Here are a few helpful resources for students and families:
- Strong minds can achieve anything. Federal Student Aid makes sure they go to college.
- Read Marian University’s“Financial Aid 101” blog.
- Explore Scholarship America, a nonprofit program that helps students overcome barriers to college—and helps them persist through their college years until they attain their degrees.
is another source of information for students and families exploring their financial aid options for college.