Completing the FAFSA - Iowa College Access Network - ICAN

Completing the FAFSA

What Is the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is a free form that may be completed without professional assistance via paper or electronic forms provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

To apply for federal financial aid, you need to fill out the FAFSA and return it to the U.S. Department of Education, which processes it and sends the information to the colleges you've listed on the form. Schools use the information to decide how much financial aid they will give you if you attend their institution.

What Information Will I Need to File the FAFSA?

You will need certain documents and numbers for yourself. In most cases, you will need the information for each of your parents as well. View a detailed list (PDF).

I Haven't Filed My Taxes Yet. What Should I Do?

If you are facing a deadline and want to get the application in as soon as possible, you can estimate your tax amounts for now. Once you've completed your tax forms, make the corrections to your file either on the Web at using your PIN or by mailing in your paper Student Aid Report (SAR) with corrections made.

What If I Don't Have a Social Security Number?

If you don't have a Social Security number, you won't be able to complete the FAFSA. Please contact ICAN about other ways to get the financial assistance you need.

If you have a Social Security number, but your parents don't, you can still file the FAFSA as long as your parents file their income tax using their Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Your parents can then fill in zeros for their Social Security numbers.

Why Do I Have to Provide My Parents' Information on the FAFSA?

Your answers to some of the questions determine if you are dependent or independent from your parents for the purpose of applying for federal financial aid. Students are classified this way because the amount of federal financial aid you may qualify for is based on how much you and your parents (or spouse) can contribute to your education. Visit the FAFSA website to determine your dependency status.

If you are considered dependent, your parents' income and assets, as well as your own, must be reported on the FAFSA. Independent students need only supply their own (and spouse's if applicable) income information.

My Parents Are Divorced. Do I Use My Mother's or My Father's Financial Information on the FAFSA?

You have to use the financial information for the parent you lived with most during the past 12 months. If you lived with each parent equally or lived with neither parent, then you should use the information of the parent you received the most financial support from. If this parent is remarried as of today, you need to report your stepparent's information as well.

 My Parent Lost Their Job. How Do I Complete the FAFSA?

If you or your family has unusual circumstances that might affect your eligibility for student financial aid, submit the FAFSA, and then consult with the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend.

Do I Include the Value of My 401(k) or My Spouse's IRA as Untaxed Income on the FAFSA?

You don't include the value of any qualified retirement account on the FAFSA. You do, however, report the contributions that were made into tax-deferred pensions or savings plans (paid directly or withheld from earnings) during the year. You should include amounts reported on your W-2 Form in Box 12a-12d, codes D, E, F, G, H and S. This would include a 401(k), 403(b) and any other tax-deferred pension or savings plan. (Contributions should be reported in question 95a on the FAFSA.)

We Are Farmers and We Live on Our Farm. Do We Report the Value of the Farm on the FAFSA?

If you live on your farm and you farm the land, it is considered a family farm and doesn't need to be reported on the FAFSA (you do not need to include the value of land, buildings, machinery, equipment or livestock, etc.). Farmland that you own but is farmed or rented by someone else would be considered an investment farm, and the net worth would be reported on the FAFSA. If you have a question regarding whether or not your farm is a family farm, contact the financial aid office at your college.

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