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Easy Steps to Filing Your FAFSA

If your child is going to college next fall, file your FAFSA to determine financial aid qualification. It’s easy as writer Sylvia Miller tells you how.

by Sylvia Miller

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If your child is applying for any financial aid to help pay for college, you or your student will fill out a FAFSA every year they attend college. This is for graduated students only, not high schoolers participating in dual enrollment. In Arizona, you can file a FAFSA for the 2020-2021 school year between October 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by September 12, 2020. You can file online at

FAFSA Determines Financial Need

The purpose of the FAFSA is to evaluate a student’s ability to pay (their expected contribution) and to help a college determine how much help the student needs (unmet need). The form asks questions about income based on your last tax return. It also uses family size and number of children in college as part of the equation. The results determine whether the student is eligible for Federal and State aid and is used by colleges in part to determine eligibility for need-based scholarships.

Filing Steps

There are seven sections or steps in the FAFSA. The first section is general information regarding the student, including contact information. The second section asks for income and expense information from the student’s tax return, if applicable. step three determines if a student is required to list parental information (those under 23 years old, single, listed as a dependent typically do). The fourth section is for parent information, if required. Step five asks household size, number of students in the household attending college, and two questions regarding other governmental assistance. In step six, the student should list any college to which he or she intends to apply. (NOTE: write them all down, even ones that seem out of reach.) The last section is signatures.

Student Aid Report

See? Easy! If, after submitting your FAFSA, you find you’ve made a mistake or omitted a piece of information or school, never fear! It is easy to file a correction online once your data have been processed. If you apply online you will receive an email confirming receipt and then, once your FAFSA is processed, another with a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR gives basic information about what your expected contribution is and whether you are eligible for federal grants (free money), loans (money you must pay back) or work study (money you can earn). After receiving the data from the FAFSA and a completed financial aid application from the student, a college will send an award letter with these federal awards listed, along with any school-based financial aid they have given, such as academic or need-based scholarships (free money, although with some strings attached usually).

For more information about student aid, go to or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.

Sylvia Miller lives in Phoenix. She and her husband, Kevin, have the privilege of co-discipling their four children through homeschool. Sylvia works part-time and is going to school verrrrrry slowly with the goal of becoming a nurse in the next eight years. She finds joy in flowers, people-watching in airports, and phone conversations with friends.

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