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Do you have to fill out the FAFSA®?


    The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is a pivotal piece of the financial aid process for college-bound students. The FAFSA® helps determine a student’s eligibility for federal aid like student loans, grants, and even some scholarships. However, some students don’t know if they have to fill out the FAFSA® before attending college or if it’s an optional application.

    The short of it is that the FAFSA®, for the most part, is optional. That being said, for students needing financial aid for college, it’s the best way to secure potential federal grants and other aid to help pay for their education.

    Let’s dive into if and when you’re required to fill out the FAFSA®, along with common questions students have about this topic.

    Are you required to fill out FAFSA®?

    Students aren’t required to fill out the FAFSA®. However, if you want to qualify for federal financial aid to help pay for college, the only way to do so is by filling out the application and submitting it. While you may still be eligible for some scholarships and private loans without filing the FAFSA®, all federal-based aid is determined by the information presented on your FAFSA®.

    Of note, some states across the country are starting to make completing the FAFSA® a graduation requirement for seniors. If you’re unsure if your state requires this, contact your school’s administration office for more information.

    Is FAFSA® required for college admission?

    No, FAFSA® isn’t a requirement for college admission. However, it’s important to understand that colleges use the FAFSA® to determine financial aid eligibility for federal grants, student loans, and work-study programs.

    Do you have to fill out the FAFSA® for all scholarships?

    No, you don’t have to fill out the FAFSA® for all scholarships. Private companies and other organizations might not require that you fill out the FAFSA® to determine your eligibility. That being said, scholarships often require students to complete the FAFSA® to determine their eligibility. If in doubt, speak to the financial aid office at your college to determine if you need to complete the FAFSA® to be eligible for certain scholarships.

    Can you opt out of FAFSA®?

    Yes, if you don’t want to complete FAFSA®, you don’t need to complete the application.

    Should you fill out FAFSA®?

    If you’re a student that needs financial assistance to go to college, the FAFSA® may help you pay for school. Students are often encouraged to file as it’s an eligibility requirement for federal grants, like the Pell Grant, that, for the most part, don’t need to be paid back.

    It also allows students to see if they’re eligible for programs like work-study, in which students are matched with a job at their school and paid for their hours to assist them in paying for college.

    FAFSA® also qualifies students for federal student loans that, in many ways, are advantageous in comparison to private student loans.

    Should you fill out the FAFSA® even if you think you don’t qualify for financial aid?

    Most students won’t know for sure whether they qualify for aid via the FAFSA® until they submit their application. However, if you’ve submitted one in the past and didn’t qualify for aid, you shouldn’t be discouraged from filing each year.

    Your financial situation can change over time, and your eligibility might change with it. Additionally, since some schools use the information on the FAFSA® to award their own scholarships, there’s always the chance you could qualify for one of those.

    The long and short of it is that it’s tough to know if you qualify for aid from one year to the next. Even a small life or financial change might affect your opportunities for financial aid.

    Can filling out the FAFSA® hurt you?

    No, the information provided on your FAFSA® is utilized by the U.S. Department of Education to assist in their ability to administer federal student aid programs. The Department of Education has provided information on how they use the data they collect on

    Also of note, the schools you apply to will have access to the information you include on your FAFSA® as well as the names of the other schools you apply to.

    How do you fill out the FAFSA®?

    There’re two ways to fill out the FAFSA® depending on what you feel most comfortable with.

    Federal Student Aid (FSA) online form

    File with the FSA at The form has over 100 questions and takes most people less than an hour to complete.

    FSA paper form

    The paper FAFSA® form is available for students unable to file online. Compared to the online form, the paper form does have a slightly longer processing time.

    What do you need to apply for FAFSA®?

    The FAFSA® requires information to confirm who you are. Here’s some basic information you’ll need to complete the application, along with other required information:

    Independent filers

    • Name and date of birth
    • Social Security number
    • Address and contact information
    • Marital status and marriage, or separation dates, if applicable. If you’re married, you will be considered an independent filer
    • Number of children or dependents in your household
    • Federal tax information, tax documents, or tax returns. This includes IRS W-2 information for you (and your spouse if you’re married)

    Dependent filers

    • Names and birthdates for you and your parents
    • Social Security numbers for you and your parents, if applicable
    • Address and contact information
    • Federal tax information, tax documents, or tax returns. This includes IRS W-2 information for you (and your spouse if you’re married) and for your parents if you’re a dependent student

    Final thoughts

    Filling out the FAFSA® application is optional. However, it’s definitely worth filing it to see what kind of financial aid options are available to you. If you choose to fill out the FAFSA®, make sure to stay on top of the deadlines.