FAFSA Tutorial Step #1: Account Creation and Setup

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When students visit www.fafsa.ed.gov, they will be greeted with a login screen as shown below.

Submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Click on “Start a New FAFSA.” This will show a page for creating a new account.

Start by entering the student’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID username or verified email address and FSA ID password or the student's name, their Social Security Number, and date of birth. When entering numbers, do not use dashes, spaces, hyphens, periods, commas, etc., as only digits are used with the online FAFSA. Hyphens should still be used in a student’s name if the student’s legal name includes hyphens.

2018-2019 FAFSA Student Information FSA ID

2018-2019 FAFSA Student Information

There are little keyboard icons next to some fields on the FAFSA. Clicking on a keyboard icon will pop up a virtual keyboard. The U.S. Department of Education added virtual keyboards to the FAFSA to help prevent identity theft. Instead of typing in some pieces of information on the FAFSA (especially on public computers at libraries, schools, etc.), the virtual keyboard uses the mouse to make it harder to steal that information through keystroke loggers.

FAFSA Virtual Keyboard

Do students need to use it? If they are at a public computer, they might want to, but if they are at a home computer or using the computer of someone they trust, it’s probably not necessary.

There’s a dark blue border along the left hand side with the word “STUDENT.” This tells the student that the information they are currently completing is for the student. The border will change colors to purple and indicate “PARENT” when the form asks for parent information.

There are no age restrictions on eligibility for federal student aid. However, students who are under age 13 will not be able to use FAFSA on the Web because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA). COPPA precludes web sites from collecting information from an underage child without verifiable parental consent. Instead, underage children will need to file a special paper version of the FAFSA. that does not collect the student's email address.

After the student’s initial login, the student may be asked which year’s FAFSA they are completing. The FAFSA has an 21-month application cycle, from October 1 before the start of the award year to June 30 at the end of the award year. So, at times, there will be a choice of two consecutive award years, the current award year and the next award year. This can be a source of confusion. Students who are applying for financial aid for fall 2018 need to file a 2018-2019 FAFSA, not a 2017-2018 FAFSA. If the student submits a FAFSA for the wrong year, the student will need to submit a new FAFSA for the correct year.

The student may also be prompted as to whether they wish to file a Renewal FAFSA or continue to complete a FAFSA that was started previously. (A Renewal FAFSA pre-fills the new FAFSA with some of the information from the previous year’s FAFSA.)

2018-2019 FAFSA Get Started Page

2018-2019 FAFSA Renewal Screenshot

Create a Save Key

Once you have logged in using your FSA ID, you will be instructed to create a save key. The save key allows you to return to the FAFSA or FAFSA correction later if you need to stop and save your work. It also allows you to share access to your application or correction if your parent needs to add information or sign.

The save key must be between 4 and 8 characters long. You can use any combination of numbers and/or uppercase and lowercase letters. For example, the save key “Student2” is different than the save key “sTuDeNt2.”

Try to choose a save key that you can remember but that would be hard for others to guess. Avoid using personal identifiers (for example, first name, last name, or date of birth) and simple save keys such as “1234” or “abcd.” For other suggestions on how to create a save key, view tips for choosing a good password.

2018-2019 FAFSA Save Key Page

After students finish with the initial screen and click “Next,” they will get the U.S. Department of Education’s collection of FAFSA tips.

This section provides answers to commonly asked FAFSA questions.

Students should click the “Next” button to continue to the actual FAFSA on the Web.

2018-2019 FAFSA Introduction Page