Everyone calls the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by its acronym: FAFSA. The U.S. Department of Education administers the online FAFSA and millions of students complete the FAFSA each year.
The FAFSA is the most far-reaching financial aid application because it:
- Determines Federal Pell Grant eligibility
- Has a key role in your PA state grant eligibility (and other states’ grants)
- Is required for federal student and parent loans
- Is needed for some scholarships
Most students under the age of 24 will need to include information about their parent(s) on their FAFSA, even if they live separately or their parent(s) will not help them financially.
More information about dependent and independent students from Federal Student Aid.
What if your parents are divorced or separated or never married?
More information about which parent(s) to include from Federal Student Aid.
Creating an FSA ID
You and, if needed, a parent, sign your FAFSA electronically using the FSA ID. If you do not have a FSA ID, you (and parent) should each create one at least 1-3 weekdays before you start your FAFSA. Create a FSA ID.
There are two important changes for the FAFSA
- It is available in October rather than January
- This earlier release explains the nickname ‘Early FAFSA’
- The 2018-2019 FAFSA uses income from year 2016 rather than 2017
- This change explains a 2nd nickname, ‘Prior-Prior Year’
The earlier release of the FAFSA gives ample time for all students to submit their FAFSA before Penn College’s new March 1 Priority Submission Deadline. The second change will allow a high percentage of student and parent taxpayers to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) embedded within the FAFSA. The DRT transfers IRS income and tax information from a taxpayer’s 2016 IRS tax return directly to the 2018-2019 FAFSA. We highly recommend students and parents use the DRT because it:
- Simplifies your FAFSA completion process
- Reduces the odds of error on your FAFSA
- Reduces the likelihood that your FAFSA is selected for Federal Verification
The IRS DRT will not be available again until October 2017 and only for the 2018-2019 FAFSA More information
Even though the FAFSA now begins earlier than ever, other factors prevent the awarding of aid earlier than before. View Financial Aid award timeline.
Contact the Financial Aid Office with any questions you have about Early FAFSA.
Information from the U.S. Department of Education about Early FAFSA.
Completing the FAFSA
All students should complete a FAFSA once per year before the Priority Submission Deadline of March 1.
- If you start in Spring 2018 Semester, you complete the 2017-2018 FAFSA
- If you start in Summer or Fall 2018 or Spring 2019 Semester, you complete the 2018-2019 FAFSA
- You (and parents) should utilize the time-saving IRS Data Retrieval Tool as you complete your FAFSA
- 12 Common FAFSA Mistakes from the U.S. Department of Education
Please be aware 1 out of 4 students who complete a FAFSA are selected for a process called Federal Verification by the U.S. Department of Education. The Financial Aid Office is here to assist you if you are chosen. Learn more about Federal Verification.