The Most Common FAFSA Questions, Answered

College is expensive. Chances are the mere fact you’re here means you’re already well aware of that. Thankfully, there are options out there to help cover the costs of higher education. Before taking out private student loans, one of the best places to start to pay for college is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). And while the process for filling out this application is somewhat streamlined, there are a lot of common questions that, when answered, can help improve your chances of approval and success.

In this article

    What is the FAFSA?

    The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the streamlined application process to apply for federal student aid for college or graduate school. Additionally, many colleges and universities use the data from the FAFSA to award their own student aid packages. The form must be completed every year by prospective or current students to remain eligible for federal aid.

    The process looks at your financial situation, your family’s financial situation and other pertinent details to make the best assessment of your overall needs for assistance.

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    [ Read: The FAFSA Guide ]

    The 10 most common FAFSA questions

    • What are the basic eligibility requirements to qualify for federal student aid?
    • Do my parents and I need to get separate usernames and passwords?
    • How do I check the status of my FAFSA application?
    • What do I do if I lock myself out of my account by accident?
    • Do I have to fill out a FAFSA application every year I’m in school?
    • Where do I get more information about the FAFSA?
    • What do I do after I submit my FAFSA application?
    • How long does it take to get an answer from FAFSA?
    • Are there income limits for FAFSA?
    • What happens if there’s still a financial aid gap?

    What are the basic eligibility requirements to qualify for federal student aid?

    The basic eligibility requirements needed to apply for federal student aid are clearly laid out on the Federal Student Aid website. The most important requirements include being a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen, demonstrating a financial need, having a valid Social Security number, being enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible program and maintaining satisfactory academic progress at your college or career school.

    [ Read: The Best Student Loans ]

    Do my parents and I need to get separate usernames and passwords?

    Yes, if you and your parents are working on your FAFSA questions, you will need separate usernames and passwords. While it might seem more convenient to share your FSA ID, separate IDs are needed for electronic signing requirements. If you or your parents need to create an ID, you can do so at the Federal Student Aid account creation link.

    How do I check the status of my FAFSA application?

    You can check on the status of your FAFSA application at the FAFSA.gov website. Once logged into your account, navigate to the “MY FAFSA” page to see the status of your current application. For students who submitted a paper application, you’ll be able to check the status in the system after your paper application is processed. Generally, this takes around 7–10 days from when you mailed your application.

    [ More: How to Apply for Education Grants ]

    What do I do if I lock myself out of my account by accident?

    If you’ve locked yourself out of your account and need to finish your FAFSA questions or check the status of your application, you have three options to get logged back in. First and second, you can unlock your account through a verified email address or mobile phone number. The third option you have is to answer your challenge questions. It’s imperative when you create your FAFSA account that you set up all three of these options in case you end up getting locked out.

    Do I have to fill out a FAFSA application every year I’m in school?

    Yes, you will need to fill out your FAFSA every school year. If you don’t or miss the deadlines, you may be ineligible to receive your student aid. The good news is that renewing your FAFSA is a much faster process than the first time you fill out the form. Most of the pertinent information is pre-populated from the previous years’ FAFSA. It is important to double-check the pre-populated information to make sure that it is still accurate.

    [ Read: College Financial Guide: Filling Out the FAFSA ]

    Where do I get more information about the FAFSA?

    The best resource for FAFSA FAQ is the StudentAid.gov website. You’ll never get better information than you can from the source. Additionally, the website has a dedicated FAQ section to answer all of your additional FAFSA questions that may come up during the process.

    What do I do after I submit my FAFSA application?

    The U.S. Department of Education compiled a great resource for what to do after you submit your FAFSA. The most important items outlined in the guide include following up with the schools listed on your form, making any corrections or updates as needed, applying for scholarships outside of the FAFSA system and beginning to compare the options presented to you.

    How long does it take to get an answer from FAFSA?

    According to the FAFSA website, online applications are processed within 3–5 days. Paper applications are processed and completed within 7–10 days. An important note is that listing a college on your FAFSA does not guarantee you’re going to receive aid from that particular school. The FAFSA website points out that not all schools create aid packages for every student. The best advice is to contact the schools you’re interested in attending to see what else you need to do.

    Are there income limits for FAFSA?

    There are no income limits to apply for federal student aid through the FAFSA process. That being said, your level of financial need will play a role in the amount and types of student funding you’re approved for.

    [ Read more: The Student Loan Consolidation Guide ]

    What happens if there’s still a financial aid gap?

    Often, you may not be able to get the full amount of money you need to cover the high costs of higher education. When this happens, you need to begin considering other options. Some good places to look are federal student loans, scholarships and private student loans. Additionally, you may want to reach out to the financial aid offices of the schools you want to attend to see if any other options may exist.

    We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

    Jason Lee

    Contributing Writer

    Jason Lee is a U.S.-based freelance writer with a passion for writing about dating, banking, tech, personal growth, food and personal finance. As a business owner, relationship strategist, and officer in the U.S. military, Jason enjoys sharing his unique knowledge base and skill sets with the rest of the world. Follow Jason on Facebook here

    Reviewed by

    • Courtney Mihocik
      Courtney Mihocik
      Editor

      Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in insurance, personal finance, and loans. Previously, she wrote and edited for Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, Ballantyne Magazine, Thread Magazine, The Post, ACRN, The New Political, Columbus Alive and the Institute for International Journalism.