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Getting your financial documents in order can help you getting ready for the FAFSA to open.

  • The best way to make the FAFSA process go seamlessly is to prepare beforehand.
  • Gather important financial documents, like bank statements and your 2020 tax returns.
  • If you understand how the application works, you’ll know how to fill it out quickly.
  • Read more of Insider’s student loan coverage here. 

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is a form that helps the government figure out how much financial aid you qualify for, including grants, work-study, and loans.

The FAFSA for the 2022-23 school year is available now. You can take certain steps to prepare so that filling out the application is a relatively smooth process.

1. Compile key financial documents

The FAFSA will require several financial documents so the Department of Education can determine your eligibility for financial aid. Getting them ready now will make the process easier when the new application opens.

For the FAFSA for the 2022-23 school year, you’ll need your tax returns from 2020. If you’re a dependent, you’ll have to provide both your tax returns and your parents’ returns. You should also gather current checking, savings, and investment account statements.

2. Create or update your FSA ID

Making a Federal Student Aid ID should take about five minutes. Doing so now will save you time because the application will then automatically fill in the information you have saved. The FSA ID enables you you to log back in, and add or edit information later if you’re unable to complete the entire FAFSA in one sitting.

You’ll need to input basic information, like your full name, date of birth, Social Security number, and the answers to security questions in case you lose access to your account. You’ll also have to provide contact information like your email address, mailing address, and phone number.

If you have a FSA ID from a previous FAFSA application, make sure the information you have listed on your account is still accurate.

Parents and student should each have their own FSA IDs, and parents shouldn’t log in as the student or fill out the student sections of the FAFSA.

3. Know your FAFSA deadlines

School year First day to file FAFSA Last day to file FAFSA Corrections or updates due
2021-22 October 1, 2020 June 30, 2022 September 10, 2022
2022-23 October 1, 2021 June 30, 2023 September 9, 2023

You’ll have about 20 months to get your FAFSA in from the start of the application period to the end of each academic year. You should apply for the FAFSA as soon after October 1 as possible, because the earlier you apply, the more likely you are to qualify for aid that has a limited pool of money available.

Even if you apply after your school year is over, your financial aid can be applied retroactively to your educational costs for the year as long as you submit your application by June 30. Read more about FAFSA deadlines here.

4. Review what to expect from the application

The FAFSA has several steps and will likely take somewhere between 30 minutes to one hour to complete. You may need your parents’ help to complete the FAFSA, as their financial information is key in determining your eligibility for financial aid.

The full application includes demographic information, school choices, and financial documentation. We break down the entire FAFSA application, including screenshots.

5. Determine what 10 schools you want to send your FAFSA to

You may send your FAFSA to up to 10 schools, though you can add and remove schools throughout the process. You can put schools you’re interested in, have applied to, or have been accepted by, though you won’t receive your financial aid package until after you are accepted to a school.

Create a list of the 10 schools you think you may want to add to your form. This isn’t binding, but it will help speed up the application process after the FAFSA opens.

The best way to fill out the FAFSA as quickly as possible is to prepare all the information you need beforehand.

Oct 1, 2021, 9:11 AM

Ryan WangmanJunior Loans Reporter Ryan Wangman is a junior reporter at Personal Finance Insider reporting on personal loans, student loans, student loan refinancing, debt consolidation, auto loans, RV loans, and boat loans. In his past experience writing about personal finance, he has written about credit scores, financial literacy, and homeownership. He graduated from Northwestern University and has previously written for The Boston Globe.

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