Dear QB: As a high school senior, what do I need to know about the FAFSA?

DearQBFAFSA season opens on October 1 this year! If you’re applying to college through the National College Match, you may be wondering what this means for you. Many of our college partners require the FAFSA as a College Match and/or Regular Decision Application Requirement, so we’re here to help answer your questions. Let’s get started!

What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the primary form that the federal government, states, and colleges use to award grants, scholarships, work study, and student loans. Most of our college partners use federal and state funds to finance a portion of College Match Scholarships, which is why the FAFSA is a College Match Requirement for many college partners.

Who should fill it out?

All students who are U.S. Citizens, Permanent Residents and eligible noncitizens should file the FAFSA. Typically, other noncitizens should not complete the FAFSA. If you are a DACA student, we encourage you to review this document.

When can I fill it out? Should I complete it before I know if I am matched?

New this year, the FAFSA opens on October 1st for the 2017-2018 school year. Go to www.fafsa.gov to get started when it opens!

Tip: We highly recommend that you fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can after October 1 to take advantage of all possible financial aid. Some state aid is offered on a first-come first-served basis — check the deadline for your state here!

What do I need to fill out the FAFSA?

Starting this year, families use their “prior-prior year” tax information to complete the FAFSA, which means that you will use 2015 tax information instead of 2016 tax information to complete the 2017-18 form. (Note: This should be the same information that you entered in your National College Match application!)

Tip: Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool as a shortcut! This tool will transfer your 2015 federal tax return information directly into your FAFSA. You will be able to use this tool in the financial information section of the FAFSA.

I am applying to more than 10 colleges, but the FAFSA only allows me to select 10. What should I do?

Don’t worry! If you are applying to more than 10 schools, submit your FAFSA with the first 10 schools. Once a school has received your FAFSA, you can take it off your list to add another by logging in and making a correction to your FAFSA.

What happens after I submit my FAFSA?

After you submit your FAFSA, the office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR will provide basic information about your eligibility, and you should review it to ensure it’s error-free.

Then, your FAFSA information will be shared with the colleges you list on the application to help them determine how much federal student aid you may receive at that school.

Tip: Watch this video!

I still have questions about the FAFSA — where can I find answers?

Check out the the FAQs on the FAFSA website — they are best prepared to answer your questions!

Important Note: Some college partners also have other required financial forms, such as the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, so check out each college partner’s Application Requirements page to find out.


Dear QB is an advice column for QuestBridge applicants and QuestBridge Scholars. To submit a question, email questions@questbridge.org with “Dear QB” in the subject line.