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How to Complete the 2024-2025 FAFSA

By Cece Gilmore

Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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Reviewed by Annie Trout

Annie has spent the past 18+ years educating students about college admissions opportunities and coaching them through building a financial aid package. She has worked in college access and college admissions for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission/Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, Middle Tennessee State University, and Austin Peay State University.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Posted: February 21st, 2024
How to Complete the 2024-2025 FAFSA

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the single most important part of the financial aid process. This single application is the key for unlocking need-based financial aid at colleges and universities across the United States. Through the FAFSA, students can be eligible for a wide variety of need-based financial aid including:

The FAFSA has undergone several changes for the 2024-2025 FAFSA year. Here are some summary points highlighting the major changes to the 2024-2025 FAFSA: 

  • The FAFSA was available at the end of December of 2023, which is months later than usual
  • The number of questions was reduced from 108 to 36
  • The questions on the FAFSA now align more with federal income tax returns 
  • An increase in aid eligibility for single parents
  • A decrease in aid eligibility for middle and high-income families
  • Reduce the likelihood of verification 
  • New Federal Pell Grant formula
  • Everyone needs an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA application
  • Student can list up to 20 schools on the online FAFSA application 
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For a more info about what’s new with the FAFSA this year, check out https://scholarships360.org/financial-aid/fafsa-changes/ #greenscreen #scholarships360 #FAFSA #scholarship #scholarshiptok #studenthacks #student #highschool #college

♬ Sia – Xeptemper

This FAFSA 101 Guide will make the process of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid simple and stress-free. Let’s dive in with the help of our financial aid expert Annie Trout!

FAFSA dates to remember

It is important to follow all of the FAFSA deadlines! Some college money is awarded on a first-come first-serve basis so try to complete the FAFSA as soon as it is opened! We recommend putting the FAFSA deadlines on your calendar as soon as possible:

  • 🗓 FAFSA Opens: December of 2023 (different from the typical October 1 application open date) 
  • ⏱ State Specific Deadlines: Varies by State
  • ⏱Federal Deadline: June 30th, 2025 

Keep in mind that the FAFSA is expected to return to an October 1st start date for the 2025-2026 school year. As a reminder, the FAFSA is open for the full school year, or three semesters (for example, Fall 2024, Spring 2025, Summer 2025). So anyone attending college during those three terms needs to complete this FAFSA.

Why is completing the FAFSA so important? 

The FAFSA is one of the most important steps to complete in the college application process! The schools you get accepted into will look at your FAFSA information to determine what your financial aid package will look like for that academic year. Your award letter may include grants, work-study, federal student loans and state or school financial aid. This award letter can be used to cover costs such as tuition, fees, housing, meals, books, a laptop and much more. 

What to know before filling out the 2024-2025 FAFSA

  • You will need your 2022 income information
  • The FAFSA is split into roles so when you log in as a student you will only see the student questions! If parental information is required, then your parent will only see parent questions. 
  • Every person logging into the FAFSA (student, student’s spouse, parent, parent’s spouse) will need their own unique FSA ID that can be created with or without a Social Security number
  • The schools you list on your FAFSA will receive your FAFSA information electronically and you can list up to 20 schools 
  • You and your contributors may need to answer questions about untaxed income such as child support and interest income
  • Make sure you have records of your savings and checking account balances as well as the value of any investments 

Filling out the FAFSA step-by-step

Ok, once these dates are on your calendar, you can get started on the actual application! We have broken the entire FAFSA application into a step-by-step process:

  1. Create your FSA ID 
  2. Gather the necessary materials
  3. Answer the FAFSA Questions
  4. Submit the FAFSA by the necessary deadline

We also have a number of Frequently Asked Questions for you to check out! Keep on reading to complete your FAFSA and ensure that you will qualify for the maximum amount of need-based financial aid that you are eligible for!

Step One: Create your FSA ID

Your Federal Student Aid ID is a unique username and password that allows you to access the FSA online platform and is your legal signature for filling out forms. Every person who will be filling out the FAFSA including the student, student’s spouse, parent and parent’s spouse must create a FSA ID. In the past, a Social Security number was required to create a FSA ID, however, for the 2024-2205 FAFSA those without a SSN can create an account using a new verification process. Create your FSA ID here.

(Keep in mind that someone may have previously created an FSA ID if they were a student and completed a previous FAFSA or a parent has an older child who has completed a FAFSA)

Step Two: Gather the necessary materials

Once you have created your FSA ID, you will need to gather the necessary materials to actually fill out the actual application. Our list of the necessary materials for both dependent and independent students can help you prepare.

Step Three: Answer the FAFSA questions

The questions online won’t appear in this exact order. The FAFSA also incorporates skip-logic online, so how a student answers a question will affect the questions they must answer. Students should never answer more questions than needed to submit the FAFSA. If asked if they’d like to skip, they should answer “YES.” If the college needs the info, the college will follow up with the student after receiving the FAFSA information and the student can then provide the individual college with the information.

Now you are ready to answer the actual questions. The 2024-2025 FAFSA has been broken down into sections based on who is answering the questions. Therefore, there may be skipped sections if you do not have these relationships such as a spouse or a parent’s spouse. We have broken down the FAFSA questions into these sections to assist you as you work your way through the application:

Here are the definitions of these relationships: 

  • Student: The student who is completing the FAFSA for financial aid for college
  • Student Spouse: If the student is married and did not file a 2022 tax return jointly with their spouse then their spouse should complete the FAFSA
  • Parent: The legal parents of dependent students who are either the biological, adoptive or a person that the state has determined to be a parent
  • Parent Spouse: If the student’s parent is married then the parent’s spouse’s information is required on the FAFSA. If the student’s parent is unmarried and living with a partner, the partner’s information is only required if the partner is also the student’s legal parent. 

Questions 1-24 (Student)

The new 2024-2025 FAFSA has broken down the form into sections based on your relation to the student. The first 24 questions are for the student, or the individual applying for financial aid for college for the 2024-2025 school year. 

There are roughly 5 sub sections or steps for the student to complete in the FAFSA. These can be broken down into: 

  • Personal circumstances
  • Demographics
  • Financials
  • Colleges
  • Signature

Personal Circumstances

The personal circumstances section of the FAFSA asks the student some basic questions such as first name, last name, date of birth, Social Security number, individual taxpayer identification number, phone number, email address, and permanent mailing address. Additionally, this section asks about the student’s current marital status, their college grade level, the amount of people in the student’s family and any unusual life circumstances.

Demographics

The demographics section asks about the student’s identity such as gender, race, citizenship status, state of legal residence and high school. 

Financials 

The financials section asks questions about the student’s financial status during 2022 or 2023. This section asks about any federal benefits the student may have received if the student filed a 2022 IRS Form 1040 or 1040-NR and other specific tax information. There is also a fill in the blank portion of this section where the student will need to list the amount of child support they received, their current total of cash, savings and checking accounts, their current net worth of investments including real estate and their current net worth of business and investment farms.The student will also need to fill out the following 2022 tax return information: 

  • Income earned from work 
  • Tax exempt interest income 
  • Untaxed portions of IRA distributions 
  • IRA rollover into another IRA or qualified plan 
  • Untaxed portions of pensions 
  • Pension rollover into an IRA or other qualified plan 
  • Adjusted gross income 
  • Income tax paid 
  • Did the student receive the earned income credit (EIC)? 
  • IRA deductions and payments to self-employed SEP, SIMPLE, and qualified plans 
  • Education credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning credits) 
  • Did the student file a Schedule A, B, D, E, F, or H?
  • Net profit of loss from IRS Form 1040 
  • Amount of college grants, scholarships, or AmeriCorps benefits reported as income to the IRS 
  • Foreign earned income exclusion 

Colleges

In this section, the student lists any colleges or career schools that you want to receive your FAFSA. You can select up to 20 schools. Additionally, this section will list the guidelines for residents to be eligible for state grant aid in their specific state of residence. 

Signature

This is the last step for the student specific section on the FAFSA! All you have to do in this section is sign your name confirming that you understand the terms and conditions of the FAFSA. 

Questions 25-29 (Student Spouse) 

This section of the FAFSA will only need to be completed if the student applying for the FAFSA has a spouse. If this is true then the student’s spouse will need to fill out identity information such as their name, SSN and date of birth as well as answer some yes or no questions regarding their 2022 tax return and filing status. 

The student’s spouse will also need to fill out the following 2022 tax return information: 

  • Income earned from work
  • Tax exempt interest income 
  • Untaxed portions of IRA distributions 
  • IRA rollover into another IRA or qualified plan 
  • Untaxed portions of pensions
  • Pension rollover into an IRA or other qualified plan
  • Adjusted gross income 
  • Income tax paid 
  • Did the student receive the earned income credit (EIC)?
  • IRA deductions and payments to self-employed SEP, SIMPLE, and qualified plans 
  • Education credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning credits) 
  • Did the student file a Schedule A, B, D, E, F, or H?
  • Net profit of loss from IRS Form 1040 
  • Foreign earned income exclusion 

Lastly, the student’s spouse will need to sign their section to indicate that they agree to the FAFSA’s terms and conditions. 

Questions 30-41 (Parent) 

This section is for the parent of the dependent student to fill out based on their personal and financial information. 

There are roughly 3 sub sections or steps that the parent has to complete in the FAFSA. These can be broken down into: 

  • Demographics
  • Financials
  • Signature

Demographics

In this section, the parent will need to fill out personal information such as their identity information, contact information, current marital status, legal residence, people in the parent’s family and how many people in the parent’s family will be in college between 2024-2025. 

Financials 

In the financials section, the parent will need to answer questions regarding their financial status and situation such as if they received any benefits from any federal programs, if they filed a 2022 IRS Form 1040 or 1040-NR and their filing status. In addition to these multiple choice questions, the parent will also need to write down the following information regarding their finances: 

  • Income earned from work 
  • Tax exempt interest income 
  • Untaxed portions of IRA distributions 
  • IRA rollover into another IRA or qualified plan 
  • Untaxed portions of pensions
  • Pension rollover into an IRA or other qualified plan 
  • Adjusted gross income 
  • Income tax paid 
  • Did the parent receive the earned income credit (EIC)? 
  • IRA deductions and payments to self-employed SEP, SIMPLE, and qualified plans 
  • Education credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning credits) 
  • Did the parent file a Schedule A, B, D, E, F, or H? 
  • Net profit of loss from IRS Form 1040 
  • Amount of college grants, scholarships, or AmeriCorps benefits reported as income to the IRS 
  • Foreign earned income exclusion 
  • Amount of child support received 
  • Current total of cash, savings and checking accounts
  • Current net worth of investments including real estate
  • Current net worth of businesses and investment farms

Signature

This is the last step for the parent specific section on the FAFSA! All you have to do in this section is sign your name confirming that you understand the terms and conditions of the FAFSA. 

Questions 42-46 (Parent Spouse or Partner) 

This section of the FAFSA is to be filled out by the student’s parent’s spouse or partner. If this relationship is not applicable to you and your situation you do not need to complete this section. However, if this is applicable to you then the parent’s spouse or partner will need to fill out identity information such as their name, SSN and date of birth as well as answer some yes or no questions regarding their 2022 tax return and filing status. 

The parent’s spouse or partner will also need to fill out the following 2022 tax return information: 

  • Income earned from work
  • Tax exempt interest income 
  • Untaxed portions of IRA distributions 
  • IRA rollover into another IRA or qualified plan 
  • Untaxed portions of pensions
  • Pension rollover into an IRA or other qualified plan
  • Adjusted gross income 
  • Income tax paid 
  • IRA deductions and payments to self-employed SEP, SIMPLE, and qualified plans 
  • Education credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning credits) 
  • Did the parent file a Schedule A, B, D, E, F, or H?
  • Net profit of loss from IRS Form 1040 
  • Foreign earned income exclusion 

Lastly, the parent’s spouse or partner will need to sign their section to indicate that they agree to the FAFSA’s terms and conditions. 

Step Five: Submit the FAFSA by the necessary deadline

While the Federal FAFSA deadline is June 30th, different states have different deadlines. You will want to make sure that you are minding the specific deadlines. This is why we recommend that you submit your application as soon as possible. Remember, it is a free application and there is no downside to applying early.

Related: Can I make corrections to my FAFSA after submitting?

After you file the 2024-2025 FAFSA

Once you submit your 2024-2025 FAFSA application you will be sent an email with a link to your FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS). The FSS is a summary of the information you provided on the FAFSA. 

Once you submit the FAFSA, you may be selected for verification. FAFSA verification is the process used by the Department of Education to double check your financial information. Do not be alarmed if you are selected! You will just need to fill out a quick and simple application. Now that you have submitted your 2024-2025 FAFSA, you will need to wait for your selected colleges to send you their financial aid packages. Due to the newness of the 2024-2025 FAFSA, there have been setbacks and minor delays that differ from the original deadlines. Therefore, there is a good chance that you will not be able to receive your financial aid letter from your desired colleges until later than expected. So, make sure you are reaching out to these specific colleges’ financial aid departments to learn more about their expected timeline.

Frequently asked questions about completing the FAFSA

How much money will FAFSA give me?

It depends on your personal and family financial situation. If you want to estimate the amount of need-based financial aid that you might qualify for, you can complete the Net Price Calculator. However, this is just going to provide an estimate and you’ll still need to complete the actual FAFSA to receive any financial aid.

Do I need to complete the FAFSA every year?

Yes! You need to complete the FAFSA every year you plan to attend college or graduate school and need financial aid.

What does my FAFSA SAI mean?

Your FAFSA SAI, or Student Aid Index, is a number used by your college’s financial aid office that determines how much federal student aid you would receive if you attended that school. It is important to note that this number is not a dollar amount of aid eligibility or what your family is expected to provide. A negative SAI indicates that the student has a higher financial need. Our guide to the SAI explains what that number means for you.

When should I fill out the FAFSA for the fall semester?

The 2024-2025 FAFSA opened in late December of 2023. This means that students and parents can start completing the FAFSA as soon as then.  Remember, the FAFSA uses financial information from the prior, prior year, so you should already have the necessary tax information.

Additionally, students who are current college students will need to renew their financial aid each year by submitting a renewal FAFSA!

Does the FAFSA cost money to complete?

No! The FAFSA is free to complete! Make sure you are visiting the official government website to avoid any potential scams or fees.

Do I need to pay back FAFSA money?

It depends! Generally, you won’t have to repay grants and work study money. On the other hand, you will have to repay student loans. Our guide to the repayment policies for different types of FAFSA money can help clarify what types of funds you’ll have to pay back.

What if I have other questions about the FAFSA?

If you still have questions, you can get in touch with the Department of Education. They offer free FAFSA support via live chat, e-mail, and phone. If you have specific questions, you should contact the Department of Education as soon as possible.

What if my financial situation has changed since I filed my taxes?

If your financial situation has changed significantly since you filed your taxes, you may be able to appeal for a professional judgment review with your school’s financial aid office. They can help you determine if you qualify for adjustments to your financial aid package based on your new circumstances.

Do I need to report my parents’ information if they don’t financially support me?

If you are considered a dependent student according to federal guidelines, you must report your parents’ information on the FAFSA. This is so regardless of whether they financially support you. 

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