FAFSA First. FAFSA Now.

The FAFSA is the first step to getting financial aid

Every year, millions of dollars in financial aid goes unused because students simply don't complete the FAFSA—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You don’t have to know what you want to do after high school, but you do need to keep your options open, so file your FAFSA. 

Then take a few extra minutes for a Vermont grant. Eligible students have received from $1,000 to $12,800 for the 2021–2022 academic year, so look for the Vermont grant link on your FAFSA confirmation page.

Start your FAFSA application now

Apply for a Vermont Grant

 

Need help with your FAFSA, Vermont grant application, or other financial aid forms? 

  1. Check out VSAC's FAFSA Completion Guide.
  2. Schedule a 1:1 meeting with a VSAC Outreach counselor to receive personalized guidance through the FAFSA.
  3. Complete your FAFSA with our “VSAC Shows You How: Filing the FAFSA” video in which VSAC counselor Carrie Harlow walks you through the FAFSA application question by question. Review the Q&As from the webinar and find additional FAFSA resources at vsac.org/financial-aid-videos.
  4. Have a quick FAFSA question? Call our toll-free FAFSA helpline at 833-802-8722 (Monday–Friday, 8:00 am–4:30 pm).

The information you provide on your FAFSA will help to decide how much you'll be expected to pay for college or career school—and how much financial aid you may receive.

  • It's free. There is never a cost to complete the application at fafsa.gov.
  • No FAFSA = No money. Not completing the FAFSA might mean you will overpay for college or training. Or think that you can't afford to go.
  • Fast. Most people take less than 30 minutes to complete the form. And the FAFSA has gone mobile! Yep, there's an app. Get started.

Need help with your FAFSA, Vermont grant application, or other financial aid forms? 

VSAC can help in a variety of ways:

  1. Complete your FAFSA using instructions from our “VSAC Shows You How: Filing the FAFSA” recording. VSAC counselor Carrie Harlow walks you through the FAFSA application question by question. Review the Q&As from the webinar and find additional financial aid videos. 
  2. Check out VSAC's FAFSA Completion Guide.
  3. Have a quick question? Call our toll-free FAFSA helpline at 833-802-8722 (Monday–Friday, 8:00 am–4:30 pm).

You won't know until you fill out the FAFSA! You may be surprised to learn what aid may be available for you.

The FAFSA is the first step to being considered for:

Ready to start?

If you're ready to apply for financial aid, start your FAFSA today.

How to get started with the FAFSA

Here are some tips that will help set you up for success with the FAFSA:

VSAC counselor Soren explains how to start

  • Start early: Each October, the FAFSA is made available for the following school year. Many colleges—and VSAC’s Vermont Grant Program—make financial aid decisions on a first come, first-served basis. Submit your application as early as possible to make sure you get the most aid you can. 
  • Make sure you’re on the right site: You can apply for the FAFSA at fafsa.ed.gov. You should never pay to submit the FAFSA. It’s all free. Be sure the site you are using ends in .gov and not .com.
  • Check your deadlines: Schools each have their own deadlines. Vermont grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For non-Vermonters, state deadlines are available at fafsa.ed.gov. Be sure to check with the colleges and career schools you’re applying to for their FAFSA deadlines.
  • Don’t be afraid to get help: There are many FAFSA resources available right here on the VSAC website—including more tips for getting started, as well as helpful videos. Tips are also available as you go through the application; and you can read about the most common mistakes people make on the FAFSA.
  • Know your colleges: While completing the FAFSA, you must list at least 1 college to receive your information. To be considered for a Vermont grant, be sure to list your first-choice colleges from any state in the first 3 positions. You may update your choices later to receive aid at a different school. 
  • Get ready to apply for the Vermont grant: Once you've submitted your FAFSA, it's time to apply for the Vermont grant. It’s easy.  At the end of the FAFSA you’ll see a link to complete the Vermont Grant Application. Follow the link for application instructions.

The information you provide on your FAFSA will help to decide how much you'll be expected to pay for college or career school—and how much financial aid you may receive.

Ready to start?

If you're ready to apply for financial aid, start your FAFSA today.

Follow these steps to help make sure you’re submitting your online FAFSA application correctly:

  1. Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID (username and password). You’ll need this in order to complete your FAFSA — and to be able to log in to any other FSA borrower websites. If you’re financially dependent on your parents, a parent will need to create his or her own, separate FSA ID.

    To create your FSA ID, go to studentaid.gov and choose "Create Account." Both the student  and the parent will need their own IDs. You can also watch this video that shows you how.

  2. Gather your information. Being prepared will make the FAFSA application process easier—and faster. Here’s what you’ll need to have on hand for yourself, your spouse (if you’re married) and/or your parents (if you’re a dependent student):

    • Social Security number
    • Alien registration number (if you’re not a U.S. citizen)
    • Federal tax returns, including W2s (Applying for the 2022–2023 college year? Use 2020 income information.)
    • Records of untaxed income (like child support)
    • Bank records (cash, savings, checking account balances)
    • Investment information (such as stocks/bonds not in a qualified retirement plan, or investment property)
    • Your colleges: You must list at least 1 college to receive your information. You may update your choices later to receive aid at a different school.
  3. Start a new FAFSA application. With your FSA ID in hand, start your application at fafsa.ed.gov. Follow the instructions to fill out your application. You’ll see “Help and Hints” on the site throughout the application process. Refer to these whenever you have a question.

    Important: Select the correct school year when applying and be sure to sign in with your FSA ID so your FAFSA will be processed as quickly as possible (if you're a dependent student, one parent will need to sign with their FSA ID as well).

  4. Submit your FAFSA application as early as possible. Most colleges and scholarships have application deadlines that you can find on their websites or in their printed materials. Though there are deadlines you need to be mindful of, you do not want to wait to apply. Some aid is awarded on a first come, first served basis. Don’t miss out!
  5. Look for a confirmation page. After you sign and submit your FAFSA, you should see a confirmation page. If you don’t see this confirmation, double check that you’ve clicked the submit button. If you provided an email address, you will receive a copy of the confirmation page by email. Be sure to keep your confirmation number with your other important financial aid information. You’ll also see a link on the confirmation page that will bring you to VSAC’s website to complete Vermont's grant application
  6. Review your Student Aid Report (SAR). Depending on how you submit your FAFSA application, you will receive your SAR by email or mail within 1 day to 3 weeks. Be sure to review your SAR carefully to verify all the information is accurate.
  7. Make any needed corrections to your FAFSA application. If you find incorrect information on your SAR, go to fafsa.ed.gov. Look for "Returning User" and click the log-in button. Once you've logged in, click on“Make FAFSA Corrections.” Follow the instructions for correcting and resubmitting your FAFSA application.

Special Circumstances: Every year, students and families experience unexpected circumstances that impact their original financial aid award package. A loss of a job. An increase in family size. Unanticipated medical expenses and other one-time events. 

This is especially true for many more Vermonters this year. Families are struggling with a variety of financial and personal pressures caused by COVID-19.  If that’s your situation, you can ask for reconsideration and are encouraged to contact your college financial aid office and to the Vermont Grant program at VSAC.

Need help with your FAFSA, Vermont grant application, or other financial aid forms? 

VSAC can help in a variety of ways:

  1. Check out VSAC's FAFSA Completion Guide.
  2. Schedule a 1:1 meeting with a VSAC Outreach counselor to receive personalized guidance through the FAFSA.
  3. Complete your FAFSA with our “VSAC Shows You How: Filing the FAFSA” video in which VSAC counselor Carrie Harlow walks you through the FAFSA application question by question. Find additional FAFSA resources at vsac.org/financial-aid-videos.
  4. Have a quick FAFSA question? Call our toll-free FAFSA helpline at 833-802-8722 (Monday–Friday, 8:00 am–4:30 pm).

Ready to start the FAFSA?

Get your FSA ID at studentaid.gov (choose "Create Account") and start your application now.

Starting the Application

What’s the deadline for submitting your FAFSA?

Your colleges set the deadline by which they need to receive your FAFSA. Please check your college’s financial aid websites to determine their deadlines.

What’s the recommended timeframe for filing a FAFSA?

Many college financial aid websites recommend filing a FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 of the senior year of high school. Students will need to file a FAFSA every year they wish to be considered for financial aid.

Does a family submit only one FAFSA, or does the student fill one and parent also fills one?

One FAFSA is filed for the student. For dependent students, parent information is reported on that form.

Where do we get the FAFSA ID?

https://studentaid.gov. Choose “create account.”

I created a FAFSA ID previously for another child, but his dad ended up filing the FAFSA form (we're divorced). I’m filing the form this time for another child, but I don't remember my ID. Should/can I create a new one, or is there a way they can prompt me to get the old ID?

When on the website to create the FSA ID, there are prompts for “Forgot Username” and “Forgot Password.” It would be important to begin with the prompts to gain access to the ID you already created.

So one child and one parent each need to create an FSA ID? And do that before filing?

The student applying for financial aid and one parent on the FAFSA each need an FSA ID. Since the FSA ID is needed for IRS Retrieval and to sign the FAFSA, it’s good to get those IDs before filing the FAFSA.

If someone was assigned female at birth but the birth certificate says male, you still don’t need to sign up for Selective Service?

If the student was assigned the sex of female at birth, they do not need to sign up for Selective Service.

Why do we need a parent account if every communication is going through the student’s account?

The parent account is used to access and download the parent tax information from the IRS and to sign the student’s FAFSA, as well as to certify that the parent financial information is correct and true to the best of their knowledge. The parent account could also be used to apply for a Parent PLUS loan should the parent choose to use that as a resource to help pay for college costs.e parent account is used to access and download the parent tax information from the IRS and to sign the student’s FAFSA, as well as to certify that the parent financial information is correct and true to the best of their knowledge. The parent account could also be used to apply for a Parent PLUS loan should the parent choose to use that as a resource to help pay for college costs.

Schools on the Application

Can you add schools later if you don’t know what schools you’re interested in?

A student needs to list only one school to file a FAFSA. Students can definitely log into their processed FAFSA to add schools as they decide to apply to more. Students can also log into their MyVSAC account to add colleges to be considered for the VT grant.

If you’re applying to more than 10 schools and if you pull the schools off the FAFSA, what happens to those schools?

When the FAFSA is submitted, all the schools listed will receive the information. When a college is removed, that college will not receive updates or other corrections. For instance, if a parent or student needs to correct a mistake on the form, only the colleges listed on the FAFSA at that time will receive the correction.

What if the student is unsure of the schools they wish to apply to? Should they wait to submit a FAFSA?

If the student knows one college they wish to apply to, they can submit the FAFSA and add more schools later.

If the system tells me my Estimated Family Contribution is 0, will that affect colleges’ decision of whether or not to accept my child?

College admissions can either be Need Blind or Need Aware. At a college that is Need Aware, the admissions office could take into consideration your family’s financial situation as a part of the admissions process.

Parents/Guardians

What if a student doesn't remember when their parents got married?

If the student is filling out the FAFSA and cannot remember when the parents were married, they can ask a parent. The date of marital status question is answered month and year.

Do we need our both of our parents' Social Security number, or can I leave it blank?

If the student has to report two parents’ financial information on the FAFSA, the Social Security number and date of birth will have to be reported for both parents. Check this link for “Who is my parent when I am completing the FAFSA?”

How are divorced parents handled on the FAFSA?

If a student’s parents no longer live together, the student will use the parent financial information of the parent they lived with the most in the last year. If that parent has remarried, the parent and stepparent information is reported on the FAFSA. Find more information about which parent information to use.

What if the student is a citizen, but the parents are not and they don't have Social Security numbers?

If your parents don’t have Social Security numbers (SSNs), they must enter 000-00-0000 when the FAFSA form asks for their SSNs. And if they don't have SSNs, they won’t be able to create FSA IDs and therefore won’t be able to sign the FAFSA form electronically. You’ll have to print out the signature page from the online FAFSA form so that the parents can sign it and mail it to the address listed on the signature page.

What if a child was an orphan in a different country for his/her first year — not in foster care, but an orphanage?

For the question “Has the student been in foster care?” only answer “Yes” if the student was ever in foster care. For the question around student dependency, “At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?” Answer “Yes” to this question if the student was still an orphan beyond the age of 13. If the student was adopted before the age of 13, the answer to this question will be “No.”

I understand that the form is filled out by the custodial parent in divorce situations. The parent 1 and 2 on the form applies to birth parents and not the custodial parent and spouse?

For the financial information on the FAFSA, if the parent the student lives with the most is remarried, parent and stepparent financial information is reported on the FAFSA.

Financial Aid

Do you have to attend college in VT to be eligible for a VT grant or VSAC scholarship?

Vermont grants are "portable," meaning that students can take a Vermont grant out of state. Many VSAC scholarships can also be taken out of state. Tune in to our next VSYH on November 18 to learn more.

If you say yes to work-study and don’t know, will that take away from the amount offered?

Saying yes to work-study does not decrease grant aid (free money).

Our EFC number came back 1.5 times higher per year than what we’ve saved for college in total. What did we do wrong?

It’s possible you did nothing wrong. The EFC is determined by looking at a number of factors, including income, assets, family size, and number of family members in college. If you’d like to contact us at VSAC and double-check that you’re reporting the correct information, call 833-802-VSAC (8722).

Taxes

What should we do if 2020 taxes haven’t been filed yet?

When asked about 2020 taxes on the FAFSA, the answers to choose from are:

  • My parents have already completed their return.
  • My parents will file, but have not yet completed their return.
  • My parents are not going to file.

If the taxes have not yet been filed, the parent or student will indicate that they “will file but have not yet completed their return.” They'll need to provide estimates of income and tax information, and then update once taxes are completed.

During your webinar, why do you have to add additional tax info if FAFSA can import the data from the IRS?

For the VSAC Shows You How webinar, we’re using a FAFSA Test Environment and aren’t able to import information from the IRS. Even when using IRS Data Retrieval, married couples will still have to report earnings information, because the IRS data cannot differentiate which parent earned what.

Assets & 529 Accounts

Which retirement plan contributions are reported? What about IRAs?

Pre-tax payments to retirement plans are reported as nontaxable income on the FAFSA. If you contribute to a traditional IRA and you claim that on your taxes, it will also need to be reported on the FAFSA. Contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars and do not need to be reported as nontaxable income on the FAFSA.

I’ll be filling out the FAFSA and don’t have rental investments, but my child's other parent does. I don't have that info. How do I fill this out?

If you’re no longer married to or living with your child’s other parent, you do not have to report that parent’s financial information on your child’s FAFSA.

Do parent investments include retirement?

On the FAFSA, investments in a qualified retirement plan are not reported on the FAFSA.

Should assets be adjusted for liabilities, for example for loans or spring tuition payments?

When assets (investments, business/investment farm) are reported on the FAFSA, you need to report the net worth of the investments — the value minus the associated debts currently held against that particular asset. Liabilities for future expenses are not included.

What if grandparents contribute 529 money? Does that have to be reported on the form?

If the 529 is owned by the parent or dependent student, it’s reported as the parent asset on the FAFSA. If the 529 is owned by the grandparent, it is not reported on the FAFSA.

How does a family manage if their retirement is in investment accounts vs. qualified retirement plans form an employer? Is there a way to discuss this with the financial aid offices?

The FAFSA is a federal form, and the components of the FAFSA are determined by Congress. You could certainly have a discussion with the financial aid offices to let them know if your retirement savings aren’t held in a qualified retirement plan to see if they would consider this as a special circumstance.

If a student is receiving Social Security benefits due to a parent who’s receiving retirement benefits via a representative payee, does information need to be provided?

Social Security benefits are not reported as income on the FAFSA.

I understand that the EFC is a reflection of income and assets, but we have only our house that we live in. We aren’t able to sell it to send her to college. I’m not understanding why there isn’t a place to write down the expenses that you have (for example, medical expenses) if you live in an area that’s expensive (most of Vermont).

While the parent primary home is not reported on the FAFSA, there may be other applications the student will complete that do ask for that information — for example, the CSS Profile and the VT grant application. Families can communicate with college financial aid offices regarding special circumstances they’re experiencing, and the colleges may be able to see if those circumstances can impact the student’s financial aid. 

What if a student doesn’t have a bank account or share where their money is with a parent? What if you cannot access a way to understand how much money belongs to you or someone else?

Please call the Federal Student Aid helpline at 800-433-3243 for advice on how to report parent or student assets when accounts are shared.

My husband is a partner in a business with fewer than 100 employees. It isn’t a family business. Does the value of his shares get reported?

On the FAFSA, the definition for a “family-owned and controlled” business means that more than 50% of the business is owned by persons who are directly related or are (or were) related by marriage. If this is not the case, the value of his shares should be reported on the FAFSA.

Would a student’s 529 be reported under student assets (cash, checking, savings) or under the parent asset?

If the student is considered a dependent student on the FAFSA, their 529 account is reported as a parent asset on the FAFSA.

Our son has two jobs and has built up a significant savings account. Will applying for financial aid help him, or will this count against him?

If a student has savings, 20% of a dependent student’s savings will be considered as part of the student’s expected family contribution.

Question from a parent: My mother left her condo to me and my brother, and we’re currently in the process of selling that. Where on the application do I include that information?

The parent will report their share of the value and debt of the property as part of their investments on the FAFSA. If you wish, you may follow up with the financial aid offices at the colleges to which your child is applying to explain that situation.

Special Circumstances

If you're about to have a substantial change in your financial situation, such as purchasing a house with a decrease in savings because of the expenses, should you fill out FAFSA before or after the change — or does it not matter?

The short answer is, “It depends.” The longer answer is that in the determination of a student's Expected Family Contribution, parental assets are highly protected as part of the calculation. The percentage of parents’ assets that would impact the family contribution would be at a rate of 7-9%. For example, $25,000 of assets would impact a family contribution by $1,750 to $2,250. Depending on the deadlines for the colleges the student is applying to, you can wait to do the FAFSA until after the purchase if you anticipate a large change in parent assets. It’s important to also be aware that some other financial aid forms (CSS Profile, VT grant application) will ask for family primary home value and debt.

There’s nowhere in the parent section to talk about special bills that (for example, if a child has significant & life-saving medical expenses). Is there anywhere to talk about medical bills and high cost of living?

For any special circumstances — for instance, high medical bills — it will be important for the parents to get in touch with each college’s financial aid office, as well as the VT Grant Program at VSAC to talk about those additional expenses. When discussing these circumstances, it’s always helpful to give dollar amounts if possible. Parents will also want to be prepared to submit documentation of the expenses paid as part of the process with the colleges and the VT Grant Program.

If the form has been submitted and something changes financially, can/should the FAFSA be updated?

If your family circumstances have changed, contact the college financial aid offices.

Where would McKinney-Vento homeless assistance act be listed? Under homeless?

Students who qualify as homeless under McKinney-Vento would answer yes to the homeless question on the FAFSA if they’re both homeless and unaccompanied, meaning without the parent(s).

Miscellaneous

Is an associate degree considered full college?

If the parents have completed a college degree, associate or bachelor's or beyond – the answer to the question would be "College or Beyond."

My child was gifted an AmeriCorp Education Credit. Does this get reported on the FAFSA and if so, where?

OK, you’ve stumped us! Please call the Federal Student Aid helpline at 800-433-3243 for guidance on a gifted Americorp Education Credit.

I made a mistake on the FAFSA and already filed it. Can I go back and fix it?

Yes, you can fix an error on a FAFSA. It might also be a good idea to notify the colleges that you have corrected an error.

Ready to start the FAFSA?

Get your FSA ID at studentaid.gov (choose "Create Account") and start your application now.