Skip to Content

Looking to submit this year’s FAFSA? Here is how the application works and its eligibility


Do you attend college or have a dependent who plans to? If so, you should consider filling out the Free Application for Student Aid, commonly called .

By completing the FAFSA, it can provide students – and their families – new sources to fund post-secondary eduction. This includes various grants, loans, scholarships or work-study programs based on personal status.

Over are completed each year, according to the Department of Education. However, some of the available money is handed out on a first come, first serve basis. So, it’s a good idea to file your application sooner than later to help pay for your education.

A new, updated version of the FAFSA was recently launched for the . Here’s how the form works.

What is FAFSA?

The FAFSA is a form for students and families to complete in order to receive federal student aid to fund post-secondary education. Each year, a new FAFSA must be submitted so that aid can be given during said academic year.

Learn more:

Previously, the FAFSA form was available starting Oct. 1, but this changed for the . The form was updated and its questions were reduced to just 36 from the previous 108. The new FAFSA was made available periodically starting .

FAFSA is not mandatory, but it is free and helps students and families get assistance based on eligibility. Individuals’ financial statuses and other factors are considered in order to tailor and grant aid.

Additionally, states and colleges use FAFSA information to award their own grants, scholarships and loans. Some may have separate deadlines for this, so be sure to keep track.

FAFSA eligibility

Anyone can apply to receive federal student aid. Even if you think you’re ineligible, you may discover otherwise by completing the form. There is no harm in applying.

According to the , the basic eligibility requirements for the FAFSA include:

  • Having a need for financial aid and/or federal student-aid programs.
  • Being a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen.
  • Having a valid Social Security Number.
  • Being enrolled or accepted into an eligible degree or certificate program.
  • Keeping “satisfactory academic progress” in a college or trade school.

How to apply for FAFSA

The FAFSA form is available online through the .

If you have a preexisting FSA ID and password, log into your account to begin a new form. If you need to create an account, all you need is a social security number and email and be able to answer some questions to confirm your identity.

If you don’t have a social security number, you can create a FSA ID if either of these is true:

Note: FSA IDs created without a social security number have limited functionality.

The 2024-2025 FAFSA form will apply for college attendance between .

You can submit for up to 20 schools to receive your information.

you need to complete the application includes: 

  • Your parents’ or contributor(s)’s information, including Social Security numbers, birthdates, emails and names. NOTE: if the parent or spouse is completing their own section and doesn’t have a social security number (SSN), the SSN will be blank and disabled. If the parent or spouse has an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), they should add it to the FAFSA form. If they don’t have an ITIN, they should leave that question blank.
  • Federal tax information, tax documents or tax returns, including IRS W-2 information, for you (and your spouse, if you are married), and for your parents if you are a dependent student. 
  • Income and asset information

The federal deadline for the FAFSA form is at 11:59 p.m. Central time. Any corrections or updates must be completed before 11:59 p.m. Central time on .

NOTE: States, schools, and the federal government have their own . Be sure to check those deadlines and submit your FAFSA form in time.

What is SAI number?

The , or SAI, distinguishes a student’s eligibility by number. The number is used by an institution’s federal aid office to “determine how much federal student aid you would receive if you attended the school.”

The number is based on your FAFSA form and the financial information given. It does not reflect a dollar amount of aid eligibility. In fact, a means a student has a higher financial need.

The institution will take your SAI number and subtract it from the cost of attendance to determine financial aid.

Just Curious for more? We’ve got you covered

USA TODAY is exploring the questions you and others ask every day. From “” to “” to “” – we’re striving to find answers to the most common questions you ask every day. Head to our  to see what else we can answer.