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Prepare to File for Financial Aid

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Whether you are planning to enter college for the first time next fall or are returning for another term, securing financial aid means filing your Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA). Your school uses this form to determine your eligibility for scholarships, grants, work-study and federal and institutional loans.

The FAFSA requires your and your parents’ or guardians’ financial information. Families often dread the process as much as tax preparation, but with a little work beforehand, you can breeze through the online form in less than an hour.

Filing Dates

Generally, you should file your FAFSA as early as possible. The FAFSA becomes available on Oct. 1 each year for the following academic year. So, the 2020–2021 FAFSA is available beginning Oct. 1, 2019.

Find current federal and state deadlines at the Federal Student Aid website.

Each college also has its own application deadlines, and many schools have a priority deadline for students who want the best chance at available aid. Get the deadlines from the website or financial aid office for each school you will apply to and file before the earliest priority deadline. See Iowa college priority deadlines.

Even if you haven’t yet made a final school decision, you need to file only one FAFSA each year, although you may need to log in to update or correct information.

Information to Have on Hand

You, and your parents or guardians if you are a dependent student, will each need to have an individual FSA ID, identification and financial information available.

  • FSA ID username and password (set yours up at studentaid.ed.gov/fsaid)
  • Social Security number, driver’s license number and date of birth
  • Alien registration number for non-citizens
  • Tax information from the tax year prior to the most recent one (2018 tax information for the 2020–2021 FAFSA)
  • W-2 forms, pay stubs or other records of income earned the prior prior tax year
  • Current balance of checking, savings and investment accounts
  • Untaxed income records from the prior prior year
  • Business and farm records from the prior prior year
  • Marriage, separation or divorce dates, if applicable
  • Child support received or paid, if applicable

More Information

For free assistance completing the FAFSA, contact ICAN or attend a local FAFSA Ready Iowa event.


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