What is the FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is a free federal form that you must complete to be eligible for:

  • Federal aid programs—Pell grants, Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, work-study employment
  • Pennsylvania state aid programs—the Pennsylvania State Grant Program, work-study employment
  • School aid programs—private grants, need-based scholarships
Why complete a FAFSA?

Completing the FAFSA is key to ensuring that you can pay for school.

  • Federal student financial assistance programs use the information you provide on your FAFSA to determine your eligibility for federal financial aid.
  • Many states and schools use the FAFSA to award financial aid.
What are the deadlines for applying or renewing?

Deadlines vary by school, state, program of study, and more. To ensure that any financial aid notification your school offers you contains aid from as many sources as possible, apply or renew as early as you can.

Type of Aid Type of Borrower Deadline
School-based financial aid
  • Undergraduate and graduate students

Varies by school

Carefully read any school information you receive and check each school's financial aid website.

Pennsylvania State Grant

View other states' grant deadlines.

  • First-time applicants who plan to enroll in a degree program or a college transferable program at a junior college or other college or university (excludes community colleges)
  • Renewal applicants who have changes that may affect their State Grant award, such as a change in marital status or a change in income
June 1
  • First-time applicants who plan to enroll in a community college; a designated PA Open-Admission institution; a business, trade, or technical school; a hospital school of nursing; or a 2-year program that is not transferable to another institution
August 1
Federal financial aid
  • Undergraduate and graduate students
June 30

Even if you miss a school or state deadline, still complete and submit the FAFSA. You may be eligible to receive late awards.

What information do I need to complete the FAFSA?

To complete the FAFSA, you need to provide information from several types of documents. We recommend you gather this paperwork before you begin the FAFSA to save time and to make sure you complete the FAFSA correctly.

First, identify what type of student—dependent or independent—you are.

  • Dependent student—You will need documentation for both you and your parents.
  • Independent student—You will need documentation for both you and your spouse (if you are married).

Personal Documents

  • Social Security number (can be found on Social Security card)
  • Driver's license number and state of issuance (if any)
  • Alien registration number or permanent residence card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)

Proof of Income

  • Taxable income from W-2 forms or other records of money earned or received
  • Untaxed income, including child support

Use income records from the calendar year that is prior to the year you plan to attend school.

Tax Documents

  • Federal Income Tax Return (IRS tax form 1040) if you were required to file (Note: If you complete your FAFSA online, you have the option of automatically retrieving your income and tax data from the IRS and having it transferred into your FAFSA. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is the preferred method to complete the FAFSA.)
  • Foreign tax return or a tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, or the Federated States of Micronesia or Palau

Use estimated tax data if you will not file your tax return before your earliest financial aid deadline. After you submit your tax return, correct any income or tax information that is different from what you initially submitted on your FAFSA.


  • Bank statements
  • Business and investment information, including business and farm records; stocks, bonds, and other investment records (as applicable); and the value of the applicant's 529 savings plan
How do I know if I am dependent or independent?

Among the more common errors made on the FAFSA, many people wrongly assume that dependency status for financial aid purposes is the same as that for income tax purposes.

To determine if you are dependent or independent for the purpose of financial aid, check the official FAFSA website.

What if my parents are separated or divorced?

If you are a dependent student, you need to provide your parents' information on the FAFSA. If your parents are separated or divorced:

  • Use the information of the parent who provided the most financial support over the last 12 months.
  • If the financial support was equal, use the parent with the highest income and assets.
  • If the parent for whom you provide information is remarried, then you must also provide your stepparent's information.
  • It doesn't matter which parent claims you as a dependent on their taxes.
What is the FSA ID and why do I need one?

The FSA ID, a username and password, has replaced the Federal Student Aid PIN and must be used to log into certain U.S. Department of Education websites. Your FSA ID confirms your identity when you access your financial aid information and electronically sign Federal Student Aid documents. If you do not already have an FSA ID, you can create one when logging in to StudentAid.gov.

If you are a dependent student, both parent and student will need a FSA ID. A different email address is required for both parent and student in creating the FSA ID.

Only the owner of the FSA ID should create and use the account. Never share your FSA ID information. Store and save it in a secure location.

What If I forgot my FSA ID username and password?

If you have forgotten your username or password, don't worry. On the log-in pages, you'll find links that give you the option of retrieving your username or password through your verified e-mail address or by successfully answering your challenge questions.

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Apply or Renew

How do I apply?

Apply online at FAFSA on the Web.

If you prefer, you can download a paper application (available in English or Spanish) or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.

Regardless of how you apply, the FAFSA is free.

How do I renew my FAFSA?

Because financial and family circumstances can change from year to year, you must complete the FAFSA each year that you need aid.

  • To renew a paper FAFSA—You must complete the entire paper application each year that you need aid.
Why fill out the FAFSA online?
  • Fast turnaround. Your application takes less than 1 week to process (vs. 2–3 weeks for a paper application).
  • Online help. Online help is built in to FAFSA on the Web to guide you through the application process.
  • Error testing. FAFSA on the Web detects potential errors before you submit your application and gives you the opportunity to correct them.
  • Built-in "skip logic". FAFSA on the Web allows you to skip certain questions that do not apply to you.
  • Electronic transmission. The schools you list on the FAFSA will receive your processed information faster.
  • Easy renewal. It's easy to renew your FAFSA, since your application will always be prefilled with your existing data from the previous award year.
  • Link to State Grant Form. Once you complete the 2024-25 FAFSA, we will email you from NoReplay@grantus.pheaa.org with instructions to complete the PA State Grant.
Is there a limit to the number of FAFSAs I can submit?

Do not submit more than one FAFSA per year. In fact, if you apply online, you need to fill out the entire FAFSA only once and simply renew it every year that you need aid.

Where can I get help filling out the FAFSA?

The following resources are available:

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After You Apply or Renew


After your FAFSA is processed, you will receive an FSS. How you receive your FSS depends on whether you provided a valid email address when you submitted your FAFSA (either online or by paper).

  • If you completed your FAFSA online but did not provide an email address or provided an invalid email address, you will receive an FSS acknowledgment in the U.S. Mail. To make changes or updates to your FSS results, you will need to go to the official FAFSA website.
  • If you completed a paper FAFSA and did not provide an email address or provided an invalid email address, you will receive your FSS results by U.S. Mail. To make any changes or updates, you will need to use the paper document.
  • If you completed your FAFSA online or by paper and provided a valid email address, you will receive email notification that your FSS results are available online. Go online to review your FSS results and make changes or updates.
What should I look for in my FSS?

The FSS contains a summary of the information you provided on your FAFSA and identifies your Student Aid Index (SAI). The schools that you listed on your FAFSA will receive the information you submitted and use this information to determine your eligibility for financial aid.

Check your FSS for the following:

What to look for Details
SAI Look for your estimated SAI amount near the top right corner of page 1.
Data errors Review the FSS carefully. Errors in your FSS can affect your SAI and your financial aid eligibility.
Verification selection

If you were selected for verification, you will find the following:

  • An asterisk (*) after your SAI amount
  • Instructions on what you need to do

Receiving your FSS does not mean that your FAFSA was accepted or that you are eligible for financial aid.

How do I make corrections or updates to my FSS?

It is important to correct any errors on your FSS. Incorrect information can impact your financial aid eligibility. To make corrections, use one of the methods below, but keep in mind the following:

  • Social Security number—If the number is wrong, you must complete a new application.
  • Financial information—Corrections are allowed only if you provided incorrect information when you submitted the FAFSA. Correct any income or tax information that was estimated when you initially submitted your FAFSA.
  • Marital status—Check with your school's Financial Aid Office if changes are needed.
Method Instructions
(fastest method)
U.S. Mail
  • Fill out the Information Correction Form on the back of the FSS.
  • Sign the Correction Page.
  • Return it to the address indicated.
(address and phone number changes only)
  • Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC):

    • 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)
    • 1-800-730-8913 (TTY)
  • Have your Data Release Number (DRN) ready. You can find it on the FSS in the top right corner of page 1.

If a special circumstance occurs (death of a parent or spouse, loss of a job or income) after your FAFSA is processed, contact your school's Financial Aid Office. Your school may be able to re-evaluate your application.


Your SAI is determined from the information provided on your FAFSA. Schools use the SAI to determine your financial need and package your financial aid offer.

Contact your school's financial aid administrator if you have special circumstances that impact your family's ability to pay for higher education, such as high medical costs or recent unemployment.

How is SAI calculated?

The federal government determines your SAI using a formula that takes into consideration family size, family income, and assets.

  • The lower your SAI, the more likely it is that you will be eligible for need-based aid, such as grants and subsidized federal loans.
  • The higher your SAI, the more likely it is that you will need to find additional sources of aid that are not based on need, such as merit scholarships, savings, unsubsidized federal loans, or private education loans.
What if my family doesn't have the money I need to pay for school?

If you still need money for school after receiving financial aid like grants and scholarships, consider these options:

  • Look into getting a federal loan first. If you qualify, a subsidized federal loan is a better option than an unsubsidized federal loan. There are even federal PLUS Loans for parents who want to help pay for their student’s education!
  • If you need additional funds after obtaining financial aid through grants, scholarships, and federal loan programs, consider private education loans—such as the PA Forward Student Loan—as a last resort.
Can I change the schools that I listed on my FAFSA?

There are two ways to add or delete the schools. But first you need the schools' six-digit Federal School Code. Once you know the school code, you can:

  • Log in to the official FAFSA website to add or delete a school code online.


  • Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) to add or delete a school code:

    • 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)
    • 1-800-730-8913 (TTY)
What is verification?

Verification is a process used to ensure that certain FAFSA information is accurate.

Either the U.S. Department of Education or your school may select your application for verification. Don't stress if you were chosen for verification. Some schools verify all of their students' FAFSA applications. Here are some other reasons you may have been chosen:

  • You were selected randomly.
  • Your FAFSA is incomplete.
  • Your FAFSA contains inconsistent data.
  • Your FAFSA contains estimated data.

If you were selected for verification, you should:

  • Review your FSS for messages from the U.S. Department of Education.

    If you have questions, visit your school's financial aid website first. Then contact the Financial Aid Office if you cannot find the answers.

  • Gather the requested documents.

    Provide only the requested information and be sure that all documents have the appropriate signatures.

  • Complete a verification worksheet, if required.

    You will receive specific instructions if this is the case.

  • Return all verification materials as soon as possible.

    The verification process must be complete before your school can receive your financial aid disbursement.

Note: Applicants selected for verification that retrieve and transfer their income tax return information using the IRS Direct Data Exchange—either when initially completing the FAFSA online or through the online corrections process of the FAFSA website—will be considered to have verified the FAFSA IRS information (adjusted gross income, taxes paid, and any of the applicable untaxed income items). However, if changes were made to the transferred information or if the institution has reason to believe that the information transferred is inaccurate, the applicant must provide other acceptable documentation. Using the IRS Direct Data Exchange, either when initially completing a FAFSA or by using the corrections functionality of the official FAFSA website, provides applicants with the fastest, easiest, and most secure solution for meeting verification requirements.

The Financial Aid Office will compare your verification documents with the information you supplied on your FAFSA. If updates significantly change the amount of financial aid you were awarded, you will receive a notification of these revisions.

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