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Once the student has created their FAFSA account, they will be asked to provide some basic demographic information. If the student has completed a FAFSA electronically in a previous year, these answers may be pre-filled. Double-check them and update the appropriate fields as needed. If required, provide the Federal Student Aid ID or username and password. Context-sensitive help is provided on the right-hand side of the screen as each question field is selected.
It is important to list the student’s name exactly as it appears on the student’s Social Security card. This is the student’s legal name, not a nickname. FAFSA on the Web will ask for the student’s last name, first name, and middle initial. For example: report the first name as Susan, not Suzie, if Susan is the student’s first name on the Social Security card.
If the student’s name has changed because of marriage, divorce, or a legal name change, the student should submit form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, to change the name with the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, since this can take some time (typically 10 days after SSA receives the application), it is best to complete the FAFSA with the name as it appears on the current Social Security card and update the Social Security Administration’s records later.
Note that the last name is listed first, followed by the first name and middle initial. Some students accidentally list their first name first instead of second.
Student Social Security Number
Students and parents should refer to a copy of their actual Social Security cards to help ensure the correct number is reported. Transposing two digits in the Social Security Number (SSN) is a common mistake. Another mistake made by parents is to enter their own number or that of the student’s sibling.
Both the student’s name and Social Security Number must match the Social Security card exactly. The U.S. Department of Education conducts an electronic match of the student’s name and Social Security Number with the Social Security Administration (SSA). A mismatch will cause the FAFSA to be rejected and may cause delays in the receipt of financial aid.
To apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) or to get a replacement Social Security card, contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 1-800-772-1213 or TDD/TTY 1-800-325-0778 or visit their web site at: www.ssa.gov.
Although an error in the student’s Social Security Number can be corrected on FAFSA on the Web, the original incorrect Social Security Number may continue to be associated with the student’s record as the record identifier, causing confusion. It may be better to submit a new original FAFSA with the correct Social Security Number. The student should ask the college’s financial aid administrator whether to correct the original FAFSA or file a new FAFSA with the correct Social Security Number. The student should speak with the financial aid administrator before taking any action, as FAFSA on the Web allows only one FAFSA to be associated with each Social Security Number.
If a student has a “work-only” Social Security Number (SSN) issued through the new Federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy or a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), the student is NOT eligible for federal financial aid and, therefore, should not complete the FAFSA. Students in this situation are encouraged to contact the colleges and universities they are considering to determine if state and/or institutional funds are available and, if so, what steps they should take to apply for such funding.
Students from the Freely Associated States (the Republic of Palau (PW), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (MH), or the Federated States of Micronesia (FM)) who do not have a Social Security Number should enter 666 for the first three digits of the Social Security Number. The federal processor will assign the remaining six digits when the FAFSA is processed.
Sometimes, the student will be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and have a Social Security Number, but one or both of the student’s parents will not have Social Security Numbers because they are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The student is still eligible for federal student aid and should complete the FAFSA with his or her Social Security Number. When the form asks for the parents' Social Security Numbers, if the parent does not have a Social Security Number, enter 000-00-0000.
Permanent Mailing Address
The permanent mailing address is the same as the address the student uses on official government documents such as tax returns and voter registration cards. It is most likely NOT the student’s address at school. For homeless students, parents, and families, or those living in transitional housing situations, this is an address where the student can receive postal mail, such as the address of a shelter or a PO Box. Students who do not have a permanent mailing address should ask the college’s financial aid administrator for help.
If the student lives outside the United States, use 00000 as the zip code.
State of Legal Residence
The FAFSA asks for the student’s state of legal residence. This is usually the state that the student lists as part of their permanent address, the student’s home state. Do not use the student’s campus mailing address. The student’s FAFSA information will be provided to this state to qualify them for state grants and other state aid.
The FAFSA asks the student for the date they became a legal resident of the state if they became a legal resident less than five years ago. (A similar question is asked of the parents if the student is a dependent student.) Five years is used as a threshold because all states consider students who are U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizens to be residents of that state if they have lived there for at least five years.
States have varying criteria for determining whether or not the student is a resident for purposes of state financial aid and in-state tuition at public colleges. The state’s flagship public college will usually have information about residency requirements on its website. If the student is dependent, the state of legal residence is usually the state in which the custodial parents live.
Most states require the student (and the student’s parent, if the student is a dependent student) to have been a state resident for at least 12 consecutive months (in some cases, a full calendar year) to qualify for in-state tuition. (Alaska requires 24 months and Arkansas requires 6 months. While Tennessee does not have a specific durational requirement, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the student and parents became state residents for reasons other than gaining eligibility for in-state tuition.) There are a variety of exceptions that vary by state. For example, some states allow children of active duty members of the military to qualify as state residents.
The state of legal residence is also used in the calculation of a student’s financial aid eligibility by determining the appropriate allowance for state and other taxes paid by that state’s residents.
Permanent Telephone Number
The permanent phone number can be a mobile/cell phone number as long as it is permanent enough that someone from a college financial aid office can call and reach the student. Don’t use forwarded numbers, voice mail boxes, or the school’s telephone number.
Double-check the email address. Make sure there are no typos. The U.S. Department of Education and the colleges and universities to which the student is applying for financial aid will send FAFSA reminders, status updates, and financial aid application results to this email address.
Student Marital Status
This question asks the student about their marital status as of the date the FAFSA is submitted. Note that this question is asking about the student’s marital status, not the parents’.
If the student answers that they are currently married or remarried, the FAFSA will require information about the student’s spouse. The spouse’s income, tax and asset information must be combined with the student’s information even if they got married after the end of the prior-prior tax year. If the student checks that they have never been married or are separated, divorced, or widowed, the FAFSA will not ask any questions about the student’s spouse. (If the student is unmarried and a dependent student, the FAFSA will include questions for the student’s parents.) This is an important question that can have a big impact on eligibility for financial aid.
Note that the student does not need to have a legal separation to be considered separated for federal student aid purposes. An informal separation will qualify, provided that the student and spouse do not live together. If the student and spouse live on separate floors of the same house, they are considered to be living together.
Marital status must be reported as of the date the FAFSA is submitted. Students should not anticipate a future change in marital status. If the student is married as of the date the FAFSA is filed, the FAFSA should be completed as married even if the student expects to get divorced or separated soon. Likewise, if a student expects to get married the day after filing the FAFSA, the student must complete the form as unmarried.
Due to the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013, students who are in a same-sex marriage should identify themselves as married on the FAFSA if they were legally married in a state or foreign country that permits same-sex marriage, even if they currently live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
A student who is married to a foreign national is still considered to be married. The student’s spouse does not have to be a U.S. citizen.
Driver’s License Number
If the student has a driver’s license, enter the driver’s license number and the state that issued it. If the student does not have a driver’s license, leave these two questions blank. A driver’s license is not required to apply for financial aid. Do not list a State ID Card number or conditional use permit numbers (sometimes called a “Learner’s Permit”) in these questions.
Student Eligibility Questions
The next section of the FAFSA asks a series of questions to help determine the student’s eligibility for federal student financial aid.
The eligibility questions include questions about the following topics:
- Student Citizenship Status
- Selective Service Registration
- High School Completion Status
- Grade Level and Financial Aid Eligibility
- Degree or Certificate Objective
- Interest in Work-Study
- First Bachelor’s Degree
- Parents’ Educational Level
- Students with Drug Convictions
In addition, applicants may be asked to provide the name, city and state of the high school where the student received or will receive his or her high school diploma.