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Free Application for Federal Student Aid

photo of students in the background with FAFSA superimposed

The FAFSA is for students who are U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents.

If students are not sure whether they should fill out the FAFSA or WASFA, they should do the WASFA Questionnaire. Students will fill out one or the other, not both. 

The FAFSA can be filled out only on It typically opens on October 1 of the student's senior year of high school. In 2023-2024 only, a newly revamped form will open by December 31, 2023. Some colleges are adjusting their Financial Aid Priority Deadlines accordingly. We suggest that families try to tackle the form over winter break or in January. We are holding a FAFSA/ WASFA Workshop on Wednesday, January 17 at Shorewood. 

Steps for FAFSA


Why do the FAFSA if you don't think you will qualify for need-based aid? 

There are a few reasons why families who can pay for all/ most of college still fill out the FAFSA:

  • Some colleges require the FAFSA even for merit scholarships.
  • Some families, though they can pay for college, have their students take out the minimum Direct Unsubsidized Loan so that they have some investment in the process and start to establish credit. 
  • The student may be eligible for work-study and the FAFSA is the only way to qualify. 
  • If circumstances change, it is much easier for a financial aid office to formulate a package if the student is already in the system. Then it is a revision rather than starting from scratch. 

Forecasting FAFSA Information

It is never too early to start figuring out about what the FAFSA formulas will yield. Keep in mind that the FAFSA information will be forwarded to colleges; the FAFSA does not 'give' money itself. Also see the Financial Fit section of the College Fit page which has more detailed suggested steps and several resources. 

Use the FAFSA4Caster/ Federal Student Aid Estimator

The online FAFSA4Caster asks a series of questions and estimates your eligibility for federal student aid. 

Use the Washington State Financial Aid Calculator 

This online form gives you an idea of the state aid you may qualify for. 

Use an SAI Chart/ Calculator

Estimate your Student Aid Index/ SAI--and read an explanation--to get an idea of how the federal formulas will regard your income and potential for aid. Linked chart for 2024-25 FAFSA. 

FAFSA Process

First page of the PDF file: fafsa-process

Diagram from Federal Student Aid. Some terminology may be outdated. 


All About FAFSA handout

Covers the what, who, when and how of this first step for college financial aid. 

All About WASFA handout

Covers the what, who, when and how of  this financial aid application for students with alternate citizenship or immigration status. 

SAI Calculator 

Allows families to project what their SAI/ Student Aid Index might be. Uses updated 2024-25 FAFSA formula. 

FSA ID Worksheet

Walks through the process of setting up an FSA ID and helps keep track of the info. Keep in a safe place. 

Introduction to Price You Pay

Introduction to the excellent book The Price You Pay for College by Ron Lieber. Look for reviews and interviews online. 

Preparing for the FAFSA video playlist

Short 2-3 minute videos to help you get ready

WSJ Guide to Student Loans

Long, detailed, and very helpful if you are considering taking on debt. Subtitle:  Navigating the Myths and Misunderstandings About College Debt (3.2022). 

FAFSA Videos from Federal Student Aid

What is FAFSA? Basics about the form.

Applying for Financial Aid With the FAFSA Form How the form works.

Understand and Prepare FAFSA Form Contributors How the contributors–which will be the student and will probably include a biological or adoptive parent and perhaps the parent’s spouse–will have a role in filling out the FAFSA. Each contributor will need their own email address and account. 

Create and Access Your Account How to set up your account/ FSA ID. The student and at least one parent will need to do this step. If the parent set up an FSA ID for an older sibling, they must use that rather than set up a new one. 

Why Do My Contributors and I Need Our Own Accounts for the FAFSA Form?  Who needs accounts, why you need an account, and how your and your contributors’  FSA IDs will be used. 

How Do I Complete the 2024-25 FAFSA Form If My Parents are Divorced or Separated? goes through some various scenarios to figure out whose information you will need. Clarifies role of stepparents.

How Do I Complete the 2024-25 FAFSA Form If My Parent is a Noncitizen? The student’s citizenship status determines eligibility for the FAFSA; parent status does not affect student eligibility, but they will still need to be contributors on your form. 

How Do I Create a Account If I Don’t Have a Social Security Number? In order to be contributors for their student’s FAFSA, parents who do not have a SSN will need to create accounts. The process is a bit different if they do not have a SSN. 

Gather Information Required to Complete the FAFSA Form includes a list of documents you need.

Start your 2024-25 FAFSA Form provides a preview about how the form works. 

What Happens After Submitting Your FAFSA Form? What happens after you submit your form.