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All you need to know about this year’s FAFSA

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For families and students anticipating college for fall 2021, it’s almost time to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on October 1st!

Here’s what you need to know to file:

The FAFSA can help you secure low-interest loans and sometimes even free tuition funding from grants and scholarships. FAFSA helps determine whether a student will receive federal grants and student loans by Federal Student Aid (FSA), a part of the U.S. Department of Education.

Filling out the FAFSA is an important part of the financial aid portion of any college journey—no matter if you are preparing for freshman year or senior year. It is highly encouraged to submit the FAFSA each year because of the substantial financial benefits it can provide.

Not only can it net you federal financial aid, but states and colleges use information from your FAFSA to evaluate whether you qualify for additional financial assistance programs such as grants, scholarships, and other loan options.

If you think you make too much money or grades are not good enough to receive financial assistance, think again: there may be an opportunity for you to receive some financial aid through FAFSA!

Applying for FAFSA during the year before attendance gives students and parents a head start on finding a way to fill that college financial gap, allowing you to get a clearer picture of which college will provide the most financial assistance. Which can be good for lowering levels of stress surrounding your finances.

This year, applying for FAFSA will be open beginning October 1st, 2020, for the 2021-2022 academic school year. When it comes to financial aid, the earlier you apply the better.

What exactly does FAFSA consist of?

The FAFSA includes questions regarding both the student and their parent/guardian. Questions like: basic personal information, name, address, Social Security Number, and completed levels of education. It will also include questions about income and financial standing for both the student and parent.

Click here to read Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union’s short and helpful guide to financial aid.

According to the Student Aid government website, you will need the following documents to file your FAFSA:

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool)
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • An FSA ID to sign electronically
  • Although not listed, you will also need the college(s) to which you will apply

How do I fill out the FAFSA?

You can fill out and apply for FAFSA using the myStudentAid app, by going online at https://fafsa.gov/, or printing and filling it out on paper.

To use the FAFSA application system, an FSA ID will need to be created for both the student and parents. Once FSA IDs have been created, you can begin filling out your FAFSA and all of the information you provided when setting up your FSA ID will prefill within the application, saving you time in the long run!

Applying digitally offers many convenient features such as saving your application documents and checking the status of your application once it’s been submitted. Additionally, if you are eligible, you may take advantage of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This service transfers your tax information to your FAFSA application, which can be a huge timesaver!

While a paper application may seem easier—just print it, fill it out and then mail it—submitting a paper application over a digital application will significantly delay your entire FAFSA process. Using the mobile or online FAFSA application can make your experience faster and more convenient.

If for any reason you choose to use the paper-version, check for a fillable PDF on the Financial Student Aid website.

Typically, filling out the FAFSA can take up to 30-60 minutes provided you have all of the necessary paperwork to start. The FSA website includes more specific information about filling out the FAFSA.

There are other great free resources to help you understand FAFSA better, like Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union’s Free Webinar where we’ll review some of the most commonly asked questions about the FAFSA. Plus, registration is free—register today and check it out on September 30!

How much aid will I receive?

Once you submit your FAFSA, it will be delivered to the school(s) you listed on the application form. From there, the college’s financial aid office will review and determine the Cost of Attendance (COA), as well as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), to determine your financial aid award package. The EFC is calculated using the same information provided on your FAFSA.

The cost of attendance determines how much it will cost to attend the school for one school year and takes into consideration tuition, room and board, books, and more. The school’s financial aid staff will subtract your EFC from the COA to determine your financial need.

Once you are accepted to your choice of schools, you will receive a letter stating how much aid you can receive. You will also be able to see whether the funding is from federal or state aid, or assistance from the college itself, including scholarships and grants.

When does the FAFSA have to be completed?

When it comes to filing deadlines, there are federal and state deadlines, as well as deadlines for specific colleges. It also depends on the school year for which you are applying. FAFSA applications open Oct. 1, 2020, and close June 30, 2021.Paying for college is undeniably one of the most stressful parts of the whole college process.

Thankfully, there are a lot of resources to help—like Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union’s College Access and Repayment Counselor. These counselors are experienced and available to guide you and answer the majority of your college finance questions with the right information so you can make the best decisions.


  • Create your FSA ID for parents and student
  • Prepare necessary documents to complete the FAFSA
  • Complete the FAFSA online, through the app, or use the paper version, available Oct. 1
  • Wait to receive your financial aid award letter from the school(s) you applied; then, choose the best fit for you!

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