“Start Here.” For 13 million students each year,1 the journey to a college degree and a bright future begins with those two simple words at the top of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online form or on the myStudentAid mobile app.
Federal Student Aid (FSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Education, distributes more than $120 billion in funding each year in the form of grants, work-study funds, and loans. “We are proud to sponsor millions of American minds pursuing their educational dreams,” FSA says.1
With this and other funding available from private, nonprofit, and educational sources, more adult learners than ever are able to pursue degrees at accredited online universities.
If you’re thinking about applying for federal aid, a few preliminaries can help smooth the process:
To complete your FAFSA, you’ll need to round up information and documents including: 2
To fill out and submit your FAFSA, you can:
Once online or on the app, create an FSA ID. You’ll use this username and password to log in and complete your FAFSA. It will also serve as your electronic signature when you’re ready to submit your application. Be sure to save your username and password somewhere safe because you’ll use it whenever you return to the FAFSA site.
The application has more than 100 questions, but you’ll only complete those that pertain to your individual circumstances. For that reason, you may never see many of the questions. “If you complete the FAFSA form online, then you may automatically skip some questions based on your answers to earlier questions,” FSA says.4
As you move through the application, click the question mark next to any question you’re unsure of to open a ”tool tip” with clarifying information. All of the “tool tip” content also can be seen in one place: 2019-20 Completing the FAFSA Form.
FSA says most people can complete the application in under one hour, but of course, it varies by individual. You can save your progress on the application for up to 45 days and return as needed. When you register, the site or app will prompt you to create a “save” code that lets you return to the work in progress.
The questions fall into five categories, and the application requires you to complete one section before moving to the next. Groupings include:
Next, you’ll need to sign and submit the FAFSA form. You’ll be asked, “Are you a preparer?” If you completed the form yourself, the answer is no because in this case, preparers are people who charge a fee to complete and submit FAFSA forms. The FSA office says this is not necessary: “And remember, the first F in FAFSA stands for free—you shouldn’t pay to fill out the FAFSA form!” Next up is a summary of all the information you provided; review it carefully. Then click on “Provide student signature” and agree to the terms. You’ll be prompted to enter your FSA ID and password as an electronic signature.
After submitting your application, you’ll get a confirmation page with federal aid estimates. Remember, these are just estimates. The schools that accept you will send you individual financial aid offers.
You will also receive a Student Aid Report, which details your FAFSA results. Be sure to review the document—including the notes—and make any necessary changes. The comments might alert you to additional information your institution requires in order to complete your financial aid application.
The FSA Information Center has answers, and from there you can e-mail questions or, during business hours, chat in English or Spanish with live technical support staff. (In the myStudentAid mobile app, you can find the contact information under the three parallel lines at the top right of the screen.) If you prefer to call, dial 1-800-4-FED-AID.
We can help. If you haven’t yet applied to Walden University and have questions, please contact an enrollment advisor at 844-767-9524. If you are a current student, please contact a financial aid advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-WALDENU (1-800-925-3368).
With completing the FAFSA off your to-do list, you’ll be one giant step closer to earning a degree that can broaden your career horizons, deepen your job satisfaction, and expand your earning potential. So get ready, get set, and start here: FAFSA.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.