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FAFSA: What is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and how to apply?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now available for the 2023–2024 academic year. We took a look at what you need to know.

FAFSA applications now available

Every year roughly two thirds of students use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for federal financial aid. Submitting an application allows the federal government to determine a student’s eligibility for loans, grants, and work study options to help students pay for university and how much they could receive. In most cases, the money borrowed will need to be paid back with interest.

The process for the 2023–2024 academic year opened on 1 October. While the federal deadline to turn in their form is 30 June 2023, it is recommended that you submit your form at the earliest possible date to allow the federal government to consider your case.

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Deadlines can be earlier in some states and institutions. The application is sent to the Department of Education and the higher education institution must also receive a copy by the last day of enrollment in the 2023-2024 school year. This date is likely to pass before the federal deadline.

Students can complete and submit the FAFSA application online by creating an FSA ID. While it isn’t mandatory to create an FSA ID, it is the fastest way to sign and have the application processed. You can also print the form-fillable application and mail it or call 1-800-4-FED-AID to request a form to fill out and mail.

Information that must be provided when filing out the FAFSA

Besides the basics like your name, birthday, address, and contact information, the FAFSA asks students to provide their citizenship and marital status. You will then be asked questions about the education level of your parents. Some loans and grants are only available to first generation college students.

Then both the student and parent will be required to provide details about their financial situation, starting with much of the same information that they would report when completing their taxes. Both sectors section will ask a student or parent to report if they or their family has been the recipient of a welfare program like Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, SNAP, or a child nutritional program.

All of this data will help the school’s financial aid staff and the Department of Education to determine the financial need of a student in order to create a student loan package. If you need help filling out the form, the government’s Federal Student Aid website provides a guide.

What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) makes centralizing all of the information needed to complete your FAFSA easy. The tool can be accessed through The most important feature is that it allows students and parents who submitted a 2021 tax return to transfer their filing information directly into their FAFSA form.


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