For parents of high school seniors or college students, Thanksgiving is a good time to complete the FAFSA.  This free online government form unlocks a world of financial aid alternatives for your college student and family.

We try to make everything easy for college parents so here is some of our most useful and essential tips.

  1. Get Your FSA ID: This is an essential first step. This user id and password is used to sign the various federal documents and
  2. Don’t wait for a special number or ID to come from the Department of Education.
    • It’s actually your email and a password. Note – you need an FSA ID for students and parents.
  3. Enter Your Tax Information Through the FAFSA. There’s a connection called the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) that will pull your federal income tax information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA. 
  4. Identify all the Colleges You Want to Receive Your FAFSA.
    • Note – it is important to include all the schools your student applies to or may choose to attend.  Some reports indicate that schools can measure how serious you are during the admissions process by seeing this data and it may count against your admissions application if you haven’t included their school.
    • The FAFSA allows you to input ten colleges at a time. If you have more than ten colleges, you will need to go back and enter the remaining colleges.
  5. Pull Your ID and Financial Information Together.
    • The two most critical tax documents are the 1040 tax form and W2 salary information. You will need the following information:
  • Name, address, and date of birth (DOB is often misreported, check input)
  • Social security number for both Student and Parent(s) if filing as a dependent student
  • Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information for the student (and spouse if you are married) and for parents if you are a dependent student. Forms needed: IRS, 1040, 1040 A, 1040 EZ
  • Foreign tax return and/or Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau
  • Records of untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income
  • Length of current state residence
  • College list with city and state (especially true for college with multiple campuses)
  • Parents current marital status
  • Student’s high school name and completion date
  • Student’s current academic position
  • Cash, savings and checking accounts balances, investments for both student and parent
  • Student’s Driver’s License number
  • Number of other siblings in college
  • FSA IDs for student and one parent