The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the application required by the federal government to receive federal financial aid for college. The FAFSA opens on October 1 for seniors and adult learners. You can fill out the FAFSA online at Although you probably have some anxiety around this process, it’s easier to get started than you might think.

How should you start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?

The first thing on the agenda? Take a deep breath. The Department of Education has made several modifications over the years – including a newly designed website- that make the FAFSA substantially easier to fill out compared to past versions. The IRS Data Retrieval tool is another excellent resource that can import information directly from your tax return. In summary, it’s totally possible to fill out the FAFSA if you have simple family finances.

It’s a risky move to delay filling out the FAFSA, as some aid is given on a first come, first serve basis. Bypassing the FAFSA entirely is even worse. You might not believe it, but $2 billion in federal student aid is forfeited every year because families don’t fill out the form.

What do you need to get started?

Here’s a list from the Department of Education:

  • FSA ID. The FSA ID is how you access and sign the FAFSA online. The student and parent can sign up for one when prompted to log into the FAFSA.
  • Social Security Number or Alien Registration Number (if you’re not a U.S. citizen)
  • Federal income tax returns, W-2, records of money earned (or you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool)
  • Bank account statements
  • Records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)

Good luck! Have questions about the FAFSA? Send us an email at