All students should submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The FAFSA is used by all schools to determine eligibility for federal and state financial aid. Many schools also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for their institutional financial aid. Most families can complete the FAFSA in less than 30 minutes.

Get Ready to File the FAFSA

There are some things you need to do before you can file your FAFSA.

Know When to File the FAFSA

The FAFSA becomes available on October 1 each year. You must file a FAFSA every year to be considered for financial aid.

Many schools have different priority filing deadlines, with some as early as December 1. Research deadlines by visiting the financial aid section of each school’s website. Meeting priority deadlines is the best way to maximize your financial aid eligibility.

Even schools without a deadline may offer aid on a first-come, first-served basis, so file as early as possible.

If you’ve missed your school’s priority filing deadline, still file your FAFSA. Some types of aid (like Federal Pell Grants and Federal Direct Loans) may be available even after priority filing deadlines.

Get an FSA ID

Before you can file the FAFSA, you will need to create an FSA (Federal Student Aid) ID. Your FSA ID is the username and password you will use to access all Federal Student Aid websites, including FAFSA.gov. Creating an FSA ID takes about 10 minutes, and we recommend creating your FSA ID before you file the FAFSA.

Tips for Creating an FSA ID
  • Be sure to enter your information accurately. Your information will be verified by the Social Security Administration and making a mistake, especially with your social security number, birthdate, or name, will cause delays.
  • You will use your FSA ID for multiple purposes over the coming years, so be sure you can remember all of the important information associated with your FSA ID. Download and print FAME’s Create Your Federal Student Aid Account (FSA ID) sheet to keep track of your FSA ID information. Keep this sheet in a secure location — for example, where you keep tax return information.
  • Keep in mind that an email address and mobile phone number can only be associated with one FSA ID. Students and parents cannot use the same email address or the same mobile phone number.
  • If you have an email address other than your high school email address, use that one to set up your FSA ID. Your high school email access will likely expire over the summer. You will need to use your FSA ID for years to come, so link it to an email address that you will continue to use.
  • Make sure you have access to your email or mobile phone when creating your FSA ID. In order to create an FSA ID, you must be able to verify that you have access to either your mobile phone or email. Different secure codes will be sent via text to your mobile phone and/or email to your email account. These secure codes will need to be entered as part of the FSA ID creation process. Once verified, your mobile phone and/or email can be used to retrieve your username, reset your password, or unlock your account. A verified mobile phone number or email address can also be used in place of your username.
  • Your FSA ID can be used immediately to access and sign the FAFSA. However, you won’t be able to use it to update or correct the FAFSA or enter any other FSA websites until it has been verified with the Social Security Administration (one to three days).
  • If you are a dependent student, one parent or guardian will also need to create an FSA ID in order to be able to sign the FAFSA.

Create Your Federal Student Aid Account (FSA ID)

Watch FAME’s video for step-by-step instructions on how to create an FSA ID.

When you’re ready to create your FSA ID, go to StudentAid.gov and click on “Create Account.” And be sure to download FAME’s Create Your Federal Student Aid Account (FSA ID) Sheet to keep track of your FSA ID information.

Gather Your Information for the FAFSA

You will need to gather some information before you begin filling out the FAFSA. For the 2023–2024 school year, you will need your 2021 income information.

If you are a DEPENDENT STUDENT, you will need:
  • Your and your parents’ FSA IDs. To create one, go to StudentAid.gov and click on “Create Account.”
  • Your and your parents’ social security numbers (SSN)
  • Your and your parents’ 2021 W-2 forms and other records of money earned
  • Your and your parents’ 2021 federal income tax returns (including all applicable schedules)
  • Your and your parents’ current bank statements
  • Print out FAME’s FAFSA Quick Tips. FAME has put together a sheet of helpful hints for navigating through and filling out the FAFSA form. Be sure to have this next to you as you begin filling out your FAFSA.

If applicable, you will also need:

  • Your and your parents’ 2021 untaxed income records
  • Your and your parents’ current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, and stock, bond, and other investment records
  • Your Permanent Resident Card (Form I-151 or I-551C) or Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) with an eligible status (if you are an eligible non-U.S. citizen)
If you are NOT A DEPENDENT STUDENT, you will need:
  • Your FSA ID. To create one, go to StudentAid.gov and click on “Create Account.”
  • Your social security number (SSN)
  • Your (and if married, your spouse’s) 2021 federal income tax return (including all applicable schedules), 2021 W-2 forms, and other records of money earned
  • Your current bank statements
  • Print out FAME’s FAFSA Quick Tips. FAME has put together a sheet of helpful hints for navigating through and filling out the FAFSA form. Be sure to have this next to you as you begin filling out your FAFSA.

If applicable, you will also need:

  • Your 2021 untaxed income records
  • Your current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, and stock, bond, and other investment records
  • Your Permanent Resident Card (Form I-151 or I-551C) or Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) with an eligible status (if you are an eligible non-U.S. citizen)

You can also download and print FAME’s Get Ready to File the FAFSA Checklist for a list of all the information you will need to gather in order to complete the FAFSA.

Filling Out the FAFSA

Most people can complete the FAFSA in about 30 minutes if they have already created the necessary FSA IDs. If necessary, you can start your FAFSA, save it, and finish it later. You will use your Save Key to get back into your saved FAFSA.

  • Use your (the student’s) FSA ID to start the FAFSA, as this will pre-populate key pieces of information.
  • Submit the FAFSA as soon after October 1 as possible.
  • The 2023–2024 FAFSA requires 2021 income information.
  • The schools you list on your FAFSA will receive your FAFSA information electronically.
  • If it’s available, we strongly recommend you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool within the FAFSA to transfer 2021 tax information to the FAFSA.
    (Please refer to our FAFSA FAQs page for more information on the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)

In addition to the FAFSA, complete any additional financial aid applications (e.g., the CSS Profile) that may be required by your school. Check with your school(s) to see what forms are needed.

FAME FAFSA Help Sessions

FAME offers FAFSA Help Sessions to help Maine families with the FAFSA-filing process. This year, FAFSA Help Sessions will be held both in-person and virtually. At these sessions, we’ll provide a quick FAFSA overview followed by personalized FAFSA filing assistance from FAME and other financial aid experts.

Our goal will be to provide you with the necessary support to file the FAFSA that evening! To make that possible, it is critical that for dependent students, both the student and parent attend this event as it’s no longer possible for a parent to access the FAFSA without both student and parent being present.

Upcoming FAFSA Help Sessions:

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After You File the FAFSA

Your FAFSA will be processed by the Federal Processing Center, typically within three days. You will not be able to make updates or corrections to your FAFSA during this time. Once processed, your FAFSA information will be sent to all of the schools listed on your FAFSA.

What Happens Next

You’ve filed your FAFSA, but are wondering, “What happens next?” This video explains what to expect in the coming months.

Review Your Student Aid Report

Your Student Aid Report (SAR) is a summary of the information you provided on your FAFSA.

  • If you provided an email address on your FAFSA, you will be sent an email with a link to your SAR once your FAFSA has been processed. Your SAR can also be found by logging in at FAFSA.gov with your FSA ID.
  • Review your SAR carefully. If there is an asterisk next to your EFC, that means you have been selected for verification. See below for more information.
  • If corrections are needed, log in to FAFSA.gov using your FSA ID (username and password), make the corrections, and resubmit your FAFSA. Make sure you and a parent (if required), sign the FAFSA again using your FSA IDs.
  • If information has changed or the FAFSA data no longer reflects your current situation, contact your school.

You May Be Selected for Verification

Verification is a process that requires schools to collect additional income and household information from some students. It does not mean that you did anything wrong!

What is Verification?

You’ve been notified that your FAFSA was selected for a process called verification. Here’s what you need to know.

Your school will let you know what documents are required by sending a letter or email addressed to you (not your parents). Make copies of required documents and send them to your school. Be sure to keep a copy of the original for your records. Students should not send information that has not been requested.

Common Verification Requests

Below are some common requests (which reflect changes by the U.S. Department of Education that allow schools more flexibility regarding acceptable documentation).

  • Verification Form (each school has their own form): Collects information about the household and lets the student know what else is required.
  • For Federal Tax Filers: The verification of tax filing status, taxable income, and taxes paid can be provided by:
    • using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool within the FAFSA (this option is available even after the initial submission of the FAFSA);
    • submitting a signed copy of the federal tax return; or
    • submitting a copy of the federal tax return transcript (if a copy of the original tax return is not available). A federal tax return transcript can be obtained by calling the IRS at 1-800-908-9946 or at IRS.gov
  • For Non-Tax Filers: Independent students and parents of dependent students (but not dependent students) are required to submit an IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter (VNF). The VNF can be requested by mailing or faxing a Form 4506-T (also available from the school or at IRS.gov) to the IRS at the address on the back of the 4506-T form.
    • If an individual is unable to obtain a VNF from the IRS or other tax authorities even after a good-faith effort, the institution may accept a signed statement certifying that the individual has:
      • attempted but was unable to obtain documentation; and
      • not filed and is not required to file an income tax return, and a listing of the sources and amount of income earned by the individual from work.
  • W-2s are also required to verify wage information (even for non-tax filers), if applicable.

FAFSA FAQs

Have a question about the FAFSA? Be sure to check out our FAFSA FAQs page for frequently asked questions about filling out, completing, and filing the FAFSA.