The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in applying for federal financial aid for college. It determines eligibility for federal student financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant, work-study, and federal student loans. The FAFSA is also used to determine eligibility for the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and other state—and college-based financial aid programs.

When filing the FAFSA, keep these tips in mind:

What to DO:

  • Create a StudentAid.gov account (FSA ID) before starting the FAFSA. 
    • Every FAFSA contributor (student and parents) must each have their own account to access and electronically sign their FAFSA.
  • Keep your StudentAid.gov account password in a safe place. 
    • Your account is as important as your social security number. Don’t share it with anyone.
  • Use your legal name, as shown on your Social Security card.
  • Enter your Social Security Number (SSN) carefully
    • If you or a parent doesn’t have a SSN, you can still create a StudentAid.gov account.
  • Consider including more than one college on your FAFSA. 
    • You can now list up to 20 colleges.
  • Consent to the new IRS Direct Data Exchange, which allows FSA to get financial information straight from your previous IRS taxes. 
  • Include at least one college located in New York State on your FAFSA in order to see the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) link at the bottom of the FAFSA confirmation page.
  • Carefully review your FAFSA Submission Summary once you receive it. 
    • It will include your estimated eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant and federal student loans, your Student Aid Index (SAI)
  • Renew your FAFSA each year you attend college!

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t procrastinate! Complete the FAFSA as soon as it opens your senior year of high school. 
    • Many colleges have early deadlines for consideration of scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid.
  • Never assume you don’t qualify for financial aid! 
    • At least 1.7 million students nationwide don’t complete a FAFSA because they think they are ineligible, including many who would have qualified for a federal Pell Grant.
  • Don’t forget that the first word in FAFSA is “Free.” 
    • Beware of anyone charging a fee to file the FAFSA for you. 
      • There is no “secret” method of qualifying for more aid, nor do you have to pay to file the application.