Blog

What in the world is a FAFSA?
January 8, 2016
Pamela W. Fowler

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the go-to form for any student wishing to apply for financial aid at U-M or any other college that uses the federal aid system.

Why is it so important? It gives colleges and universities the information needed to determine whether you are eligible for a Pell Grant, federal Work-Study or a federal student loan for the coming Fall Term. While some colleges use other methods to award their grant, or gift aid, the FAFSA has basic information that we need.

Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you won’t get any financial aid at U-M. That goes for entering students and continuing students who must complete the FAFSA each year they are enrolled in college.

No one else can fill out the FAFSA for you and most students and parents complete this process online. Obtain a Federal Student Aid ID at fsaid.ed.gov (which is yours and yours alone) allowing you to sign your FAFSA electronically. This goes for parents too: They get their own federal FSA ID to sign their portion of the FAFSA. As with any password, don’t share your FSA ID with others!

The form asks for family details and financial information including family income, how many children attend college and other key factors. Much of this information is found on the federal income tax return.

We encourage students to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible to be considered for all aid. The IRS Data Retrieval process allows FAFSA filers to access the Internal Revenue Service database to download tax information and automatically populate the FAFSA. The FAFSA became available on January 1, 2016 for the 2016-17 school year.

So, complete the FAFSA as soon as possible, use estimates if necessary and allow the IRS to populate your FAFSA fields if you have completed taxes. If you use estimates, you can go back and amend your FAFSA once your taxes are filed.

Don’t wait to file and miss the financial aid priority deadline. You do not need to be admitted to U-M apply for financial aid. Our aid deadline is April 30, so file your FAFSA well before this deadline and give yourself a few weeks to avoid any potential problems.

Remember to complete your FAFSA each year and be sure we have it in hand by April 30 so you can be considered for all available aid. If you are an entering student, also file the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE so we can consider you for U-M grant money.

Questions? Many times there are. Contact our financial aid counselors and they will help. Email financial.aid@umich.edu or call 734-763-6600.

Pamela W. Fowler

is the Executive Director of the Office of Financial Aid