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When students visit www.fafsa.ed.gov, they will be greeted with a login screen as shown below.
Click on “Start a New FAFSA.” This will show a page for creating a new account.
Start by entering the student’s name, his/her 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.
Notice the little keyboards next to some fields on the FAFSA. Clicking on this 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.
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 he/she is currently completing is for the student. The border will change colors to purple and indicate “PARENT” when the form asks for parent information.
Students who are under age 13 will not be able to use FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) 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 paper FAFSA. A paper FAFSA is available upon request by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
After the student’s initial login, the student may be asked which year’s FAFSA he/she is completing. The FAFSA has an 18-month application cycle, from January 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 2015 need to file a 2015-2016 FAFSA, not a 2014-2015 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 he/she wishes 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.)
On the next screen, the applicant will be asked to create a password. The password should be between 4 and 8 characters long and may include numbers, uppercase letters and lowercase letters. Passwords are case-sensitive, so uppercase letters will not match lowercase letters. Applicants should memorize or write down this password as they will need it later if they want to continue completing their FAFSA after taking a break.
Applicants should not use easy-to-guess passwords, such as their first or last name, nickname, date of birth, “qwerty,” “12345678,” “abc123,” “iloveyou,” “monkey” or “password.”
If the applicant forgets his or her password, the password may be reset by clicking on the “I Forgot My Password” link. The form will ask for the student’s permanent zip code before resetting the password. Otherwise, the student will need to call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) for help.
If the applicant is submitting a Renewal FAFSA, he or she will also be asked for his/her Federal Student Aid PIN at this time.
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 (FOTW).
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