Many websites claim that you can file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) through them. But, there is only one real FAFSA on the web, and it is the one that is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
Don’t Pay Nothing to Nobody to File the FAFSA
As the form’s name suggests, the FAFSA form is a free form students use to apply for federal financial aid. The financial aid process is fairly simple; you should not have to pay anybody to file the form.
If you are asked to pay money, even for a value-added service like increasing eligibility for financial aid or help appealing for more financial aid, it is a sign that the website is not the one, true FAFSA website.
Where Can You Find the Official FAFSA website?
Both of these web addresses take you to a URL on the studentaid.ed.gov website. But, the full URL is a bit long, so it is easier to just remember to go to fafsa.ed.gov or fafsa.gov. The .gov top-level domain name tells you that it is an official government website. This is the only way to apply for federal student aid.
What Do You Need to Complete the FAFSA?
Students who want to file the FAFSA application must meet the following basic eligibility criteria.
- Have demonstrated financial need
- Are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
- Registered with Selective Service
- Enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible higher education degree or certificate program, such as a career school
- Enrolled at least half-time, if applying for Direct Loan program funds
- Can maintaining satisfactory academic progress
- Are not in default on a federal student loan
- Must use federal student aid for educational purposes only
- Have a high school diploma or GED, have completed high school in an approved high school setting or have enrolled in an eligible career pathway program
You should also gather the following documents before you begin to fill out the FAFSA, so that you have all of the information you need on hand. If you are a dependent student, you would use your parents’ information.
- Social Security number
- Driver’s License number
- Alien Registration number (if applicable)
- Federal income tax return
- Records of untaxed income
- Amounts held in assets, such as cash, bank accounts, investments and business and farm assets
If you’re completing a renewal FAFSA, some of this information will be pre-filled. However, since it is a new academic year, don’t assume you will qualify for the same financial aid award.
Beware of Fake FAFSA Websites
If a website’s domain name ends in .com, .org, .co or anything other than .gov, it is not the official government FAFSA on the web.
Do not share your FSA ID with anybody other than the official FAFSA website.
Also be careful about submitting personal private information through a non-government website, as there’s a risk of identity theft.
If you shared your FSA ID with the wrong website, call the U.S. Department of Education at 1-800-730-8913 or 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to have them reset your FSA ID. They may ask you to send them proof of your identity, such as a copy of a government-issued photo ID card or a copy of your Social Security Card.