The past year brought major changes to the process of applying for federal student aid. For example, families can complete the form beginning October 1, instead of January. A few highlights are included here, as well as links to additional resources.

DO fill out the FAFSA form.

In order to receive any form of financial aid, students and families MUST fill out the FAFSA on an annual basis. Don’t forget to reapply every year.

Mark your calendars for October 1.

The FAFSA will be available on October 1, not after January 1 as in previous years — a full three months earlier, Many schools still list their priority deadline to file the FAFSA as March 1, but Broadway suggests filling out the form as early as possible after it becomes available. Some schools offer aid on a first come, first serve basis, so it’s best to submit your form as early as possible, just in case. Forms use the previous year’s tax information, so no need to wait.

Accuracy is key.

Be sure to complete all information correctly; it never hurts to double- or triple-check. FAFSA requires both student and parent information, so make sure to put information in the right place. Broadway suggests referencing the top of the page, where requests for parent information are always highlighted in purple, and the student section will appear in a different color. P for purple and for parent!

Go electronic.

Filling out your FAFSA electronically is easy and can save a lot of time. (There is even an IRS data retrieval tool that can pull in tax information for many families.) Filing electronically will require a version of an electronic signature, called a Federal Student Aid ID, or FSA ID, easily acquired from fsaid.ed.gov. Both the student and one parent will need to sign with unique FSA IDs. It typically takes 24-48 hours to acquire your FSA ID, so be sure to allow plenty of time for processing. FSA IDs can be acquired at any time, however, and Broadway suggests taking care of this small detail well in advance of completing any forms. And remember, your ID will remain the same through all years of college, so keep this ID in a safe place.

Stick to .gov.

Be careful Googling for FAFSA forms. Be wary of anything other than .gov sites (like .com, .org, etc.). A number of sites will charge you to fill out the FAFSA. Remember that “free” is in the name of the form; you should never have to pay to file the FAFSA. Stick to official .gov sites, or go through a reliable source like CFNC.org.


Some FAFSA submissions will be randomly selected for verification. If you are selected, don’t worry! This is a standard process, and typically around one third of submitted applications will go through verification. If selected, you will be notified and asked to provide additional information such as a copy of your IRS tax return. Be sure to provide any requested information as soon as possible to avoid in delays in receiving an aid offer.

Work study

Financial aid award letters from colleges and universities may include a type of aid called work study. Broadway strongly encourages students to consider this option, as many campus jobs are offered through work study programs. If you’d like to be considered for this option, be sure to select that option on the FAFSA.

Personalized FAFSA help

Still have questions? CFNC holds FAFSA Day every fall at locations across the state. Representatives will answer questions and walk you through completing the FAFSA form from start to finish. Find dates, locations, and register at cfnc.org, and be sure to bring your tax information with you.

8 Steps to Filling Out FAFSA

Need to fill out the 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form but don’t know where to start? I’m here to help. Let’s walk through the process step by step.


12 Common FAFSA Mistakes

The 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form will be available Oct. 1, 2017! If you plan to attend college between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, you should fill out your FAFSA form as soon as it’s available on Oct. 1. Just make sure you don’t make one of these common mistakes: