8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA
Posted By: Melissa Elliott - 10/3/2017 4:03:58 PM

Need to fill out the 2018-19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) but don't know where to start?  We are here to help!  Let's walk through the process step by step. 

1. Create an account (FSA ID).

  • Student: An FSA ID is a username and password you need to sign the FAFSA form online. If you don’t have an FSA ID, get an FSA ID here ASAP. It takes about 10 minutes to create an FSA ID.
  • Parent: If your child is required to report parent information on the FAFSA form, you need to create your own FSA ID in order to sign your child’s FAFSA form online. Create an FSA ID here.

IMPORTANT: Some of the most common FAFSA errors occur when the student and parent mix up their FSA IDs. If you don’t want your financial aid to be delayed, it’s extremely important that each parent and each student create his or her own FSA ID and that they do not share it with ANYONE.  

2. Start the FAFSA at fAFSA.gov.

The 2018–19 FAFSA form is now available! Even if your school's deadline isn't for a while, you should complete the FAFSA form as soon as possible.  Don’t wait until the last minute to apply!

Go to fafsa.gov to get started.

Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete:

  • 2018–19 FAFSA form if you will be attending college Fall 18, Spring 19 or Summer 19.
  • 2017–18 FAFSA form if you will be attending college Fall 17, Spring 18 or Summer 18.
  • Both: If you will be attending college during both time periods and haven’t completed your 2017–18 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait one to three days until it processes , then go back in and complete the 2018–19 FAFSA form.

TIP: If you are given the option to complete a “renewal” FAFSA form, choose that option. When you choose to renew your FAFSA form, your demographic information from the previous year will roll over into your new application, saving you some time.

3. Fill out the Student Demographics section.

This is information such as your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA form in the past or if you log into the FAFSA form with your FSA ID, a lot of your personal information will be prepopulated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

Parents: Remember that the FAFSA form is the student’s application, not yours. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student. Pay attention to whether you’re being asked for student or parent information. When in doubt, the banner on the left side will indicate whether you’re on a student or parent page.

4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA information sent.

In the School Selection section, you can add up to 10 schools so add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. The school code for Vernon College is 010060. 

5. Answer the dependency status questions.

In the dependency status section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA form.

The dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Even if you live on your own, support yourself, and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If you are determined to be a dependent student, you’ll be required to report information about your parent(s). If you’re determined to be an independent student, you won’t have to provide parent information and you can skip the next step.

6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section.

This is where your parent(s) will provide basic demographic information. Remember that it doesn’t matter if you don’t live with your parent(s); you still must report information about them if you were determined to be a dependent student in the step above.

7. Supply your financial information.

Here is where you and your parent(s) (if applicable) will provide your financial information. This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your school. So if you’re eligible, use it!  To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the student or parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see a “LINK TO IRS” button. Choose that option and follow the prompts.

Note: Beginning with the 2018–19 FAFSA form, the information transferred from the IRS will no longer be displayed, but you will get a confirmation message letting you know that the transfer was successful. You’ll also know which items have been transferred from the IRS because you’ll see “Transferred from the IRS” in place of the answer fields. Please make sure to answer all other questions.

8. Sign and submit your FAFSA form.

You’re not finished with the FAFSA form until you (and your parent, if you’re a dependent student) sign it. The quickest and easiest way to sign your FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID. 

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • Make sure you and your parent don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his or her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
  • Make sure the parent who is using his or her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number from the drop-down menu. If your parent doesn’t remember whether he or she was listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, he or she can go back to the parent demographics section to check.
  • Here’s what you should do if you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form.
  • If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of his or her children. Your parent can also transfer his or her information into your sibling’s application by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.
  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your parent are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.

I’m finished. What’s next?

Congrats on finishing your FAFSA!  Now monitor your status on My VC and turn in any required paperwork ASAP! The VC Financial Aid Office wants to provide you the financial support you need to afford your education!

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