MONEY FOR COLLEGE

How to Fill Out the FAFSA

Most federal and state financial aid programs require you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Filing the FAFSA is free! We’ve made it easy for you to gather the information you will need to complete the FAFSA. The FAFSA is an important part of your higher education journey and it might even mean free money to cover your college costs.

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Need help completing the FAFSA?

Read our Three-Step Guide. There are three steps to completing the FAFSA: create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, fill out the FAFSA, and review your Student Aid Report (SAR). We walk through the three steps of completing a FAFSA below. 

Watch the Video Walk-throughs. These quick videos walk you through each step of completing a FAFSA (Watch below).

Contact Us. If you need additional assistance completing the FAFSA, reach out to us via email or by calling 615-350-8668. We have staff standing by to help.  

Three-Step Guide to Completing the FAFSA

Step 1. Create Your FSA ID (you and your parent)

The first step to completing your FAFSA is to create an FSA ID (a username and password). Your FSA ID gives you access to Federal Student Aid’s online system and serves as your legal signature. Only create an FSA ID using your own personal information and for your own exclusive use.

You’ll use your FSA ID every year you are in college to complete the FAFSA and review your federal student aid. You, the student, should use your own email address to create an FSA ID and your parents should use their own separate email address. To create an FSA ID, go to: fsaid.ed.gov

SUCCESS TIPS:

Creating an FSA ID takes about fifteen minutes and should be done in advance of completing the  FAFSA form online.

The FSA ID will also follow you through all of your college career, so make certain that you are correctly entering the information and using an email and phone number that will not change after you graduate high school, or move to another residence.

Step 2. Filing the FAFSA (with your parent)

After creating your FSA ID, the next step is to file your FAFSA! There are two ways that you can file your FAFSA: 1. Online at www.fafsa.gov OR 2. Through the myStudentAid Mobile App (download the app in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store).

If you need help filing the FAFSA, contact your college/career counselor to find out when you and your family can get assistance completing the form.

When filing the FAFSA, questions often arise about dependency status, parental information, and citizenship status. For answers to those questions, visit studentaid.gov.

SUCCESS TIPS:

When you and your parent/guardian are ready to complete the FAFSA, you will need your parent/guardian and yourself to have an FSA ID.  Go back to step 1 if you and your parent/guardian have not yet created an FSA ID.

The FAFSA requires financial information from your parents/guardians so that the Federal Government knows whether or not you are eligible for financial aid.  Colleges and Universities also look at these numbers to offer you additional financial support and resources to help you succeed after you have been admitted.

Your school counselor and college advisor will be an incredible support to you as you go through the process.

You will have to complete the FAFSA each academic year to receive financial aid from TN Promise, HOPE, the Federal Government, and your university so make sure that you know how to complete the form. 

Step 3. Review Your Student Aid Report (SAR)

What is the SAR?

The Student Aid Report (SAR) summarizes the information you submitted on your FAFSA and provides information about financial aid eligibility based on that information. 

How and when will I get my SAR?

After you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’ll get your personal SAR (within three days if you complete the FAFSA online; within three weeks if you mail the paper FAFSA). Whether you receive your SAR online or through the mail depends on whether you provide an email address on your FAFSA. If you provide a valid email address, you’ll receive an email with instructions on how to access an online copy of your SAR. If you have an FSA ID (username and password) and your FAFSA has been processed, you can log in at www.fafsa.gov to view your SAR information regardless of how you filed the FAFSA. The school(s) you list on your FAFSA will have access to your SAR data electronically within a day after it is processed.

What information does a SAR contain (and not contain)?

The SAR won’t tell you how much financial aid you’ll get, but if your application is complete, an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will display in the upper right-hand corner of your SAR and your estimated  Pell Grant amount will be provided. If your application is incomplete, your SAR will not include an EFC or Pell amount, but it will tell you what you need to do to resolve any issues.

The SAR also contains a four-digit Data Release Number (DRN), which appears on the first page in the upper right corner of the paper SAR and SAR Acknowledgment. On the electronic SAR, the DRN is located in the box that contains the Application Receipt Date, below the EFC. You will need the DRN if you choose to allow your college or technical school to change certain information on your FAFSA.

What am I supposed to do with my SAR?

When you get your SAR, review it carefully to make sure it’s correct and complete. Take a copy of it to your college/career counselor to get help reviewing it. The school(s) you listed on your FAFSA will use SAR information to determine your eligibility for federal and state financial aid. A school may ask you to verify the accuracy of the data you provide on the FAFSA, a process called “verification”, so you need to be sure the information is correct. If you don’t have any changes to make to the information listed on your SAR, just keep it for your records.

What if my SAR does not list an EFC?

If your EFC is blank on your SAR or if there is a “C” after the number, you need to make corrections to your FAFSA. It is extremely important that you make these corrections to your FAFSA to receive financial aid. Your SAR will provide you with details about the errors in your FAFSA.

What if there is an asterisk (*) next to my EFC?

If there is an asterisk (*) next to your EFC, this means that your FAFSA has been selected for verification. Being selected for verification is quite common. This just means that you will need to work with your college to complete a few extra steps to verify the information you provided on your FAFSA.

SUCCESS TIPS:

After your FAFSA has been received by the Federal Government and your future college, it is important to review all components of the Student Aid Report. Your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) is the dollar amount that the Federal Government believes your family can annually pay for college expenses. The lower the EFC, the more likely you will earn Pell Grant dollars.

Video Walk-throughs

How to Create an FSA ID

How to Complete the FAFSA, Part 1

How to Complete the FAFSA, Part 2

How to Complete the FAFSA, Part 3

How to Complete the FAFSA, Part 4

How to Complete the FAFSA, Part 5

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