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6 things to know before you complete the FAFSA

It’s officially FAFSA season! The 2020-21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available starting today (Oct. 1). Filing a FAFSA is the first step to taking advantage of financial aid opportunities that are available to your family. Ready to get started? Below, we break down some of the basics you need to know before you can complete this important application.

What is the FAFSA anyway?

The FAFSA determines if you are eligible to receive money from the federal government that can be used towards a higher education. This could include a federal Pell Grant (money you don’t have to pay back), work-study jobs and/or loans. Learn more about the different types of federal aid>>

Who Should File for Federal Aid?

If you are planning to attend college or career training school in the 2020-21 school year, you should file the FAFSA now. To stay eligible for federal money and local scholarships and financial aid packages, it’s important to complete a FAFSA each year you are in school.

While there are some basic criteria you need to meet to qualify for federal aid, most financial aid counselors recommend applying even if you think you won’t qualify. Why bother? In many cases, the information provided on the FAFSA is used to award state scholarships and grants and to administer college financial aid packages. You could miss out on other sources of funding if you don’t complete the federal application.

What are the Deadlines?

The federal deadline for the 2020-21 application is June 30, 2020. You should apply as early as possible though since some aid is given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Colleges may also require you to file the FAFSA earlier than June 30 as well.

What Do I Need to Apply?

An FSA ID. This is the username and password you’ll use to log in to complete the FAFSA. To create your FSA ID, go to

Your 2018 federal tax return (or your parent’s if you are considered dependent).

Financial documents like W2s, bank statements and information on savings and investment accounts. Learn more about the documents you will need to apply for federal aid>>

List of schools you are interested in attending. The schools you list will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically.

Where Do I Apply?

Apply online. The FAFSA form can be completed for free online at Click the “Start Here” button and follow the prompts to log in with your FSA ID.

Use the myStudentAid mobile app. Available for Apple and Android devices, the myStudentAid app gives you the power to create your FSA ID and complete your application right from your phone or tablet.

How Can I Get More Help?

There are many additional resources to assist you in completing the FAFSA.

LEAP Tampa Bay volunteers work with our school district and college partners to help students fill out financial aid forms throughout the year. Ask your guidance counselor if there is a financial aid event scheduled for your school. Your counselor should also be able to answer questions you may have about completing the form, and college-specific questions can be directed to your potential college’s financial aid office.

The FAFSA website has helpful information to guide you through the application process and answer frequently asked questions. You can also call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

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