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Steps for Filing the FAFSA 

Author: Isaac Ehlers | Image: Isaac Ehlers

1. Create an account/FSA ID

If the student is required to report parent information on the FAFSA, the parent and student will need to create their own separate FSA ID.

2. Start the FAFSA

The FAFSA is now available until January 3rd, but you shouldn’t wait to file it. Go to and get started! Also, remember that the FAFSA is not a one-time thing. You should file it for every year you attend college. 

3. Fill out the demographics

This is information such as your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA form in the past or log into the FAFSA form with your FSA ID, a lot of your personal information will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. 

Parents: Remember that the FAFSA form is the student’s application, not yours. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it refers to the student. Pay attention to whether you are being asked for student or parent information.

4. List the schools you’re interested in

You may list up to 10 schools. Iowa State University’s code is 001869.

5. Answer dependency questions

In the dependency status section, you will be asked a series of questions to determine whether you must provide parent information on the FAFSA form.

The dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Even if you live on your own, support yourself, and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If you are determined to be a dependent student, you will be required to report information about your parent(s). If you are determined to be an independent student, you will not have to provide parent information and can skip the next step.

6. Fill out the parent section

This is where your parent(s) will provide demographic information. Remember that it doesn’t matter if you do not live with your parent(s); you must report information about them if you are determined to be a dependent student.

7. Fill out the financial information

Here is where you and your parent(s) (if applicable) will provide your financial information. You can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). This allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form quickly. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your school. To access the tool, indicate that you have “already completed” taxes on the student or parent finances page. If eligible, you will see a “LINK TO IRS” button. Choose that and follow the prompts. Make sure to answer all other questions.

8. Sign and submit

You are not finished with the FAFSA form until you (and your parent, if dependent) sign it. The quickest way to sign your FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID. Then submit, and you’re done!