The Gist:

  • Make sure to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) early.
  • To ensure your tax information is entered correctly on your FAFSA, use the IRS retrieval tool.
  • You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA, so list as many as you can.
  • The Financial Aid Estimator can show you your potential FAFSA award amount.
  • If you’re selected for FAFSA verification, contact your school’s financial aid office.

Planning to use federal financial aid to pay for your next year of school? Now’s the time to get started on your FAFSA form! The FAFSA for the 2022-23 school year is now open.

If you’ve never completed the FAFSA, check out these steps to prepare.

Ready to complete and submit your FAFSA? Check out the following tips for getting the best financial aid for your situation.

Submit the FAFSA early

When it comes to state and institutional financial aid, your state and school have a finite amount to award. Some of it is given on a first-come, first-served basis. That’s why it’s important to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1st.

Use the IRS Data Retrieval tool

The FAFSA will ask for information about your financial situation to calculate the amount of federal aid you’re eligible for. This includes records about bank accounts, investments, and your taxes.

To save time on this section of the FAFSA, you may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool. This is a free way to transfer your tax information to your FAFSA in a few easy steps.

In case you’re unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool, keep your tax return and W-2 form from 2020 close by while completing this section of the FAFSA.

List as many colleges as possible

If you’re applying to schools this year, you may have already picked out a few that you’re interested in. Did you know that you can send your FAFSA results to these schools?

In return, these schools will put together grants, work-study, loans, and other financial aid sources to offer you. This is called your financial aid package. You’ll see the aid package that each school is willing to award you through your financial aid offer letters.

You can send your FAFSA results to 10 schools in your initial FAFSA submission. If you want to send your results to more than 10 schools, check out these instructions from Federal Student Aid.

Remember, you don’t have to be accepted to a school to list it on your FAFSA. However, you need to be accepted by that school to receive its financial aid offer.

Try out the Financial Aid Estimator

If you’re unsure about your eligibility for federal aid, try out the Federal Student Aid Estimator! This helpful calculator can give you a good idea of how much aid you could potentially qualify for. The best part? It takes a fraction of the time that the FAFSA takes.

When you use the Federal Student Aid Estimator, just remember that it provides an educated guess. You could be offered more (or less) than what the calculator estimates.

Be prepared for verification

FAFSA verification can come as a surprise, but it’s nothing to worry about. It’s the standard way for colleges and Federal Student Aid to make sure the information you submitted on your FAFSA is accurate.

If you’re selected for FAFSA verification, contact your school’s financial aid office. They’ll let you know what information they need from you to complete the process.

Completing the FAFSA is a great way to find money to pay for college—but it isn’t the only way. There are many sources of financial aid outside of the FAFSA. Combining the FAFSA with these resources is a great way to build your plan to pay for college with less debt!

Photo of Financial Coach Melanie.About Melanie

I am a Financial Coach for college students and parents. I am an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®) and received my BBA in Management from Texas State University. I help students understand their financial aid and help them develop a plan to achieve their educational and financial goals. I was a first-generation college student, so I have a personal understanding of some of the struggles students face.

Working in the financial aid industry for 13 years has given me the opportunity to work with students at different points in their life from starting college to graduating and finding a job — all the way through helping them repay their student loans and save for the future.

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