FAFSA - what is it?
Free Application for Federal Student Aid
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in your financial aid journey. It is a free and quick application process that gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college!
The FAFSA is an online form created by the U.S. Department of Education that helps determine how much financial aid a student can receive. It considers factors like family income, assets, and size to calculate a Student Aid Index (SAI) which determines your eligibility for federal student aid. Many states, colleges, and private aid providers rely on your FAFSA to determine eligibility for their respective aid programs.
Disclaimer: Due to the FAFSA Simplification and FUTURE Acts passed by Congress, there are a significant number of changes to the 2024-2025 FAFSA. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FAFSA CHANGES AND HOW THEY MAY AFFECT YOU!
Why should I apply and when is it due?
why should i apply?
You are not required to complete a FAFSA, but it is recommended that you still file even if you think you may not qualify for aid. Check out some of the reasons below:
Consideration for Various Aid: Financial aid is not solely based on low income. The FAFSA takes into account multiple factors, including family size, number of family members in college, and other expenses.
Eligibility for Different Types of Aid: Even if you don't qualify for need-based grants, you may still be eligible for federal loans, work-study programs, and scholarships that aren't solely need-dependent.
State and Institutional Aid: Some state and institutional aid programs also use FAFSA information, and these may have different eligibility criteria. Filing the FAFSA ensures you're considered for a broad range of financial aid opportunities.
Changing Circumstances: Financial situations can change, and unexpected circumstances may arise. Filing the FAFSA provides a safety net in case your financial situation evolves during the academic year.
School-Specific Aid: Many colleges and universities use the FAFSA to award their own aid. Even if you don't qualify for federal grants, you might still be eligible for school-specific assistance.
By completing the FAFSA, you keep your options open and ensure that you're considered for all available forms of financial assistance. It's a relatively straightforward process, and you may discover aid opportunities that you weren't aware of!
When will the FAFSA be available?
You must complete a FAFSA every academic year that you plan to be enrolled in school! Normally the FAFSA is available on October 1, before the upcoming academic year is scheduled to begin.The 2023-2024 FAFSA became available on October 1, 2022, for enrollment during the summer of '23, fall of '23, and/or spring of '24.
- If you are planning to be enrolled in the upcoming spring semester you can complete your 2023-2024 FAFSA now!
The 2024-2025 FAFSA was delayed from the normal October 1st opening date to December 31st, 2023 due to changes in federal financial aid policies and updates to the application process. Moving forward the FAFSA will go back to being available on October 1.
- If you are planning to be enrolled in the summer of 2024, fall of 2024, or spring of 2025 you can complete your 2024-2025 FAFSA as of this January.
- Please be aware the current release of the 2024-2025 FAFSA is a Federal Student Aid's (FSA) soft launch of the application. See the disclaimer below for more information.
FAFSA Soft Launch Disclaimer:
Federal Student Aid (FSA) has released a soft launch of the 2024-2025 FAFSA application as of December 31st, 2023. The soft launch is intended to serve as a period for FSA to monitor and respond in real time to issues with the form and user experience.
To be able to address and fix issues that arise, FSA has implemented pauses to the site, during which the form is not available to complete.
- These pauses are not scheduled or announced. Applicants who may be in the middle of completing their application may be kicked offline if a pause occurs while they are logged in.
Due to the expected large volumes of applications, FSA has implemented a waiting room feature as a means to control web traffic and ensure optimal performance of the application.
- Students and families may experience delays in completing their applications.
Federal Student Aid (FSA) has stressed that applicants do not need to rush to complete the 2024-2025 application as they are not expected to send FAFSA data to institutions until the fist half of March.
- Schools may not be able to interpret FAFSA data until mid-April or early May.
To prepare for completing the FAFSA, you can take steps now to ensure you are ready.
- Determine who needs to contribute their information on the application.
- Make sure every contributor has their own Federal Student Aid Account (ID & Password).
- Gather the documents you will need for each contributor.
when is it due?
You must complete and submit a FAFSA application for every academic year that you are in school.
Standard Deadline: You have the flexibility to submit the FAFSA at any point during the academic year you are enrolled. However, for timely processing and to ensure your aid eligibility, it's crucial to have your application received by the school and your financial aid awards accepted before the academic year concludes or your enrollment ends.Recommended Deadline: March 15th each year to be considered for all types of financial aid (federal, state, and institutional aid).PA State Grant Deadline: Your FAFSA must be completed by May 1st of each year to be considered eligible for the PA State Grant due to your application being late.
Disclaimer: The recommended and PA State Grant deadlines above are for the initial submission of the FAFSA; not subsequent paperwork or documentation that may be requested.
whose information has to be provided?
The student needs to complete the FAFSA; however other people may also be required to fill out a portion of the application for the student. Anyone who is required to provide information on the FAFSA is known as a Contributor. A Contributor on the FAFSA form does not mean they are financially responsible for the student's education costs. Contributor is a new term introduced on the 2024-25 FAFSA form.
What/who is a contributor?
A contributor refers to anyone asked to provide information on a student's FAFSA form:
- the student
- the student's spouse
- a biological or adopted parent
- the parent's spouse (stepparent).
A Contributor is NOT a grandparent, foster parent, legal guardian, brother or sister, aunt or uncle, friend, etc. - even if they helped provide for or raise the student.
how are contributors determined?
- A student who is married will be required to provide spousal information on the FAFSA.
- A student who is under the age of 24 and cannot answer YES to one or more of the dependency questions on the FAFSA will be required to provide parental information.
which parent is my contributor?
If your legal parents (biological or adoptive) are:
Married to each other Report information about both parents on your FAFSA. Unmarried but they live together Report information about both parents on your FAFSA. Single/unmarried and NOT living together Only report one parent on the FAFSA. This should be the parent who provides the greater portion of the student's financial support and it does not matter who the student lives with. Divorced or Separated and not remarried Only report one parent on the FAFSA. This should be the parent who provides the greater portion of the student's financial support and it does not matter who the student lives with. Divorced but remarried to someone else Report information for the parent who provides the greater portion of the student's financial support. Information of that parent's spouse (your stepparent) will also be required.
what if my contributor refuses to provide their information?
It is important to try to explain to them that being a contributor does NOT implicate financial responsibility. Their information is simply used to determine the types of aid you may qualify for.
Unfortunately, if your biological, adoptive, or step-parent(s) refuse to help you with this process, your FAFSA will be considered rejected/incomplete and you will be ineligible for federal, state, and possibly some forms of institutional aid.
what if I have no contact with my parents?
If you have no contact with your parents and don't know where they live, or you've left home due to an abusive situation, select “Yes” to the “Do unusual circumstances prevent the student from contacting their parents or would contacting their parents pose a risk to the student?” question on the 2024–25 FAFSA form. You will be considered provisionally independent.
To complete your application, contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend to find out what supporting documentation you will need to submit to have your dependency status confirmed.
what is a federal student aid account and why is it needed?
The Federal Student Aid Account, or FSA ID, consists of a unique username and password combination you use to log in to U.S. Department of Education (ED) online systems.
- The FSA ID is your legal signature and shouldn't be created or used by anyone other than you—not even your parent, your child, a school official, or a loan company representative.
Who needs a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID and password?
Anyone who is required to contribute information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must create their own Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID and password.
- A person who needs to contribute information on the FAFSA can include the student, biological, adoptive, and step-parent(s).
- The FSA ID serves as your electronic signature and is needed to complete the FAFSA and other federal student aid documents.
- Starting December 2023, contributors without an SSN can create a StudentAid.gov account to fill out their portion of the 2024–25 FAFSA form online.
why do my contributors and i need separate accounts?Each contributor must use their personal e-mail address, phone number, and other personal identifiers such as their legal name, social security number, and date of birth to create their account.
- Shared emails and phone numbers cannot be used for multiple people/accounts and you should not use work or school emails.
If you don’t want your financial aid to be delayed, it’s extremely important that each contributor create their own FSA ID and that they do not share it with anyone, even each other.
How do you create your FSA User ID and password?
Starting December 2023, contributors without an SSN can create a StudentAid.gov account to fill out their portion of the 2024–25 FAFSA form online. Click here to access Spanish instructions for obtaining an fsa id without a social security number.
why do i need to provide consent to complete the fafsa?
consent & the direct data exchange with the IRS
According to the Future Act, all students and contributors must provide consent to the following:
- Have their federal tax information transferred directly into the FAFSA form via direct data exchange with the IRS;
- Have their federal tax information used to determine the student's eligibility for federal student aid; and
- Allow the U.S. Department of Education to share its federal tax information with postsecondary institutions and state higher education agencies for use in awarding and administering financial aid.
Important: Even if students or contributors don't have a Social Security number, didn't file taxes, or filed taxes outside of the U.S., they still need to provide consent.
what information do i need to complete the fafsa?
Gather the information and documents you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Having these items on hand can help you accurately complete the form and avoid any potential delays.
- Your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID and password to log into the application
- Your Social Security Number or your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
- Tax returns (if applicable), W-2 forms, and any other financial information
- The name, date of birth, Social Security number, and email addresses for each contributor.
It's also good to gather other important documents and information just in case you need to enter any information manually. This may include:
- tax returns;
- records of child support received;
- current balances of cash, savings, and checking accounts;
- net worth of investments, businesses, and farms.
Direct Data Exchange students & contributors
Both the student and their contributors will be required to provide consent and approval to have federal tax information transferred directly from the IRS into the FAFSA once they begin their portion of the application.
- This must be done even if taxes were not filed.
- There are some instances when you may need to manually enter tax information, but consent must still be given.
- If any required contributor does not provide consent and approval, the student will not be eligible for Federal Student Aid.
how do i complete the fafsa?
To begin the process go to studentaid.gov/fafsa
Log in with your student FSA ID & password and complete questions pertaining directly to you and your college plans. This will include basic information such as student identity information & dependency questions, demographic information, financial information, and where you plan to apply to college.
- You will be required to consent to a Direct Data Exchange of your information from the IRS into the FAFSA. Even if you did not file taxes, you will be required to consent.
- To have your information sent to Millersville University, you must include our School Code: 003325 on your application.
As the student, you will also be asked a series of questions to determine whose information is required on your FAFSA and considered a contributor. Once you know who is required as a contributor, you will need to invite them to complete their portion of the FAFSA.
- To invite your required contributors, you will need the name, date of birth, Social Security number, and email address of each contributor.
Once your contributor(s) receives the email invitation, they can log into the application with their FSA ID & password and complete the sections pertaining to parent information. This will include basics such as identity information, household information, income tax information, and other financial information.
- You contributor(s) will also be required to consent to a Direct Data Exchange of their information from the IRS into the FAFSA.
- Even if they did not file taxes, they will be required to consent. If you are required to provide both parents information on the FAFSA consent must be given by both parties if their filing status is anything other than Married Filing Jointly.
Once the FAFSA is completed, all parties have signed electronically, and the form is submitted you will receive a FAFSA Submission Summary or confirmation page.
If you completed your FAFSA prior to May 1st and you are a PA resident make sure to also complete your PA State Grant Application at pheaa.org
how do i know what i qualify for?
There are several steps to fully determining what you may qualify for in financial aid. Once your information is processed by Federal Student Aid, it has to be sent to institutions to evaluate and create a financial aid offer.
fafsa submission summary
The FAFSA Submission Summary will give you the following key pieces of information:
- Your Student Aid Index (formerly known as the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC).
- Your estimated eligibility for federal financial aid.
- Whether you have been selected for verification.
fafsa information is sent to schools
Each school you include on your FAFSA will receive your information and begin to create your Financial Aid Offer based on your Student Aid Index (SAI) and other information.
- For the 2024-2025 academic year, FAFSA data is not expected to start being sent to any institutions until mid-March.
- If you are completing your FAFSA after the end of March, your FAFSA should be received by Millersville within 5-7 business days.
financial aid offers are created
Once your FAFSA data is made available, institutions will need time to create your Financial Aid Offer. Keep an eye out in your email for when your Offer Letter from Millersville is available.
New, Prospective Students
- If you have not yet confirmed your spot with Admissions your Offer Letter will go to the student email address on your FAFSA.
- If you have already confirmed your acceptance with Admissions, your Offer Letter will go to your student Millersville University email address.
Current, Returning Students
- Offer Letters for returning students are sent beginning in mid-June to your Millersville University email address.
- If you are planning to take summer courses and are requesting to use some of your fall/spring aid during that time, you will need to complete a Summer Aid Application.
- In this instance, you would receive your Offer Letter beginning in late March/early April once your application is received and processed.
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Office of Financial Aid
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Office of Financial Aid
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Millersville, PA 17551-0302