Financial Resource Center


Steps for Completing the FAFSA for your College-Bound Child

by Joel Chrisler / September 13th, 2019

According to The College Board, the 2017-2018 cost for a student at an in-state public school ran, on average, just over $9,000 for tuition alone. Add the dorm cost with a meal plan and you have now doubled your cost per year. Given the cost, it is essential that you take a look at all the financial options available to you and your child.

If you have money saved or you need to finance the entire cost, there is one very important resource to complete, and that is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. This is the form that families fill out to apply for federal grants, loans, and work-study funds for college students. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Education, which provides more than $150 billion in student aid each year. Filling this form out is often seen as a daunting task, but changes to the process have made it easier than ever before. Your eligibility for federal grants (which don’t have to be repaid) and federal loans (which do) will generally be based on your financial need, and this is determined by the information you supply on your FAFSA. Let’s take a look at the 8 steps to completing this online form.

1. Create an account (FSA ID). You and your child should create your FSA IDs at Your FSA ID serves as your legal electronic signature.

2. Start the FAFSA form. Go to and click “Start A New FAFSA.”

3. Fill out the Student Demographics section. Here’s where you’ll enter basic information about your child. Make sure you enter your child’s personal information exactly as it appears on their Social Security card so you don’t encounter any errors.

4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA information sent. It is important that you add every school your child is considering, even if he or she hasn’t applied or been accepted yet.

5. Answer the dependency status questions. In this section, you’ll be asked a series of questions to determine if your child is required to provide parent information on the FAFSA form. Even if your child doesn’t live with you, supports him or herself, and files taxes separately from you, he or she may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes.

6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section. This is where you’ll provide your own demographic information.

7. Supply your financial information. In this section, you’ll be asked to provide parent financial information. This step is simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). This allows you to import your IRS tax information with just a few clicks.

8. Sign your child’s FAFSA form. The quickest and easiest way to sign your child’s FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.

Hopefully, these 8 steps will help ease the stress of this very important part of the college prep process. Even if you aren’t sure your child will qualify for financial aid, the effort to complete this may pay dividends. Your child’s financial future may depend on it.

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