If you know that you will qualify of need-based financial aid to pay for college – or hope that you will – you must fill out a FAFSA before you receive any federal grants or loans. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid must be filled out each year using information from your federal tax returns.

Available online between January 1 – June 30, the FAFSA allows students and parents to submit their financial information, even if they have not completed their tax returns, yet. Check with your college’s financial aid office to see if they have a mid-February deadline for completing the FAFSA.

By selecting “Will File”, financial information can be estimated, based upon the previous year’s returns. Families will be required to update their FAFSA after they file their current year’s taxes.

Before you can complete the FAFSA, you must apply for a PIN. This 4-digit number is used in combination with a student’s social security number and date of birth as an added security measure and to allow you to electronically sign financial aid documents.

While the FAFSA is time consuming and tedious to fill out the first time, the online system allows you to pre-fill certain information each year. Once you complete your FAFSA, a college’s financial aid office will determine your eligibility for federal and state student aid. The FAFSA may also allow you to qualify for certain school-based aid and private need-based scholarships.

There is NO charge for completing the FAFSA


Some schools require incoming students to complete the CSS / Financial Aid PROFILE, a financial aid application hosted by College Board – home of the SAT. This form asks for more detailed information about family assets and income than the FAFSA. The PROFILE financial aid determination is generally used by private colleges to award private scholarships and other non-federal aid.

Students must pay $25 for the initial PROFILE application and one report. Reports sent to additional colleges cost $16 each. A limited number of fee waivers are available on a first-come, first-applied basis.

The PROFILE application is available to complete online beginning October 1. Deadlines for submitting this form are determined by participating colleges and their early enrollment deadlines.

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Last modified on April 19, 2020