The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (known as the FAFSA) is a form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students to determine their eligibility for student financial aid (including the Pell Grant, Federal student loans, and Federal Work-Study).
Despite its name, the application is not for a single federal program, being rather the gateway of consideration for many programs.
The U.S. Department of Education begins accepting the application beginning January 1 of each year for the upcoming academic year. Each application period is 18 months; most federal, state, and institutional aid is provided on a first come, first served basis. Students are advised to submit a FAFSA as early as possible for consideration for maximum financial assistance.
The Department of Education recommends you utilize the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which is made available on the FAFSA. This tool will retrieve most of your tax information, excluding wages, directly from the IRS and automatically input the information on your application. The DRT can be used for students and parents.
Applicants who have completed a FAFSA in previous years may submit a renewal FAFSA. Any information that has changed must be updated annually. The FAFSA consists of numerous questions (at least 130 for the 2010–2011 academic year) regarding a student's (and his or her family's) assets, income, and dependency. These are entered into a formula that determines the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). A number of factors are used in determining the EFC including the household size, income, number of students from household in college and assets (not including retirement and 401(k) funds). This information is required because of the expectation that parents will contribute to their child's education, whether that is true or not.
To apply for Federal Student Aid, go to www.fafsa.gov. Use SEARK College’s school code, 014893.
You will need a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to electronically sign your FAFSA. To apply for a PIN, go to www.PIN.ED.GOV .