Part: 2 - - The Application Process
SectionTitle: How to Apply
How to Apply
A student must complete a FAFSA, either electronically or on paper, even if he or she is applying only for a federal loan. The student will need copies of his or her income tax return (and his or her parents' return if dependent or spouse's return if independent), W-2 forms, current bank statements, and records of any stocks, bonds, and other investments and assets.
A student does not have to pay a fee if he or she fills out only the FAFSA. However, a school or state may require a student to fill out additional questions on a separate form so that he or she can be considered for some state or institutional aid, and the school or state may charge a fee for processing these additional questions. A student should check with his or her state agency to find out if it requires an applicant to submit a separate form to receive state aid. (Some states do use FAFSA data to award aid.)
There are two paper FAFSAs a student can use: the Department-printed FAFSA and the Portable Document Format (PDF) FAFSA, which a student may obtain from the Department's website. After downloading the PDF FAFSA, a student must print it, complete it, and mail it to the CPS.
Included with the Department-printed 1998-99 FAFSA is a postcard that a student can complete and return to the CPS with his or her completed FAFSA if he or she wishes to be notified of when the application was received. The postcard will be date stamped by the CPS and returned to the student. Postage for the postcard is not prepaid; each student must remember to affix a postage stamp to his or her postcard.
A student may apply for aid electronically through EDE, FAFSA Express, or the Department's latest electronic application programs, FAFSA on the Web and Renewal FAFSA on the Web. All of these application methods are free. A student who uses one of the electronic methods does not need to also submit a paper FAFSA; the student needs to complete the FAFSA only once each year, in whichever form is most convenient.
Finally, note that some students will not have to complete an entire FAFSA, but rather can use a Renewal FAFSA, preprinted with last year's data, and simply change or add information as needed. (Photocopies of Renewal FAFSAs and of SARs cannot be processed, due to the requirements of image scanning technology.)
For 1998-99, the CPS will mail Renewal FAFSAs to students who applied for federal student aid in 1997-98 and who meet certain conditions - for instance, their SSNs and addresses were valid, they were not in default, and so forth. These students must provide new financial and some nonfinancial information on the Renewal FAFSA but can leave other information the same if it has not changed.
These students will receive Renewal FAFSAs in the mail or from their schools some time after November 1997. (The CPS will print and mail Renewal FAFSAs only to those students whose records were not requested by a school.)
In the fall, schools participating in EDE may request Renewal FAFSAs for some or all of the students who listed that school on their applications for the previous year. The school can either request the electronic Renewal FAFSA records or ask that the applications be printed by the CPS and mailed in bulk to the school. The school is then responsible for distributing the Renewal FAFSAs to the students and must also enter and transmit the completed Renewal FAFSA if it only requested the electronic records. More information on this process, as well as the schedule, was provided in Action Letter #1 (September 1997). For questions about Renewal FAFSAs, an FAA should call CPS Customer Service at 1-800/330-5947.
FAFSA on the Web
FAFSA on the Web is an Internet application, launched by the Department on June 30, 1997, that allows a student to complete his or her FAFSA data and submit that data directly to the CPS. After transmission, the student may then mail his or her signed signature page to the Department. The CPS determines the student's EFC within 72 hours after receiving the completed application and signature page. The CPS then prints and mails a SAR to the student.
FAFSA on the Web automatically edits applicant data before transmission, resulting in better information and fewer applications rejected by the CPS. In addition, FAFSA on the Web uses "skip logic," so that students are only asked questions they need to answer. Note that to protect the student's private data, FAFSA on the Web requires the use of certain web browsers approved by the Department; students can apply using any computer that supports an approved browser. The FAFSA on the Web site lists the approved browsers. Because many students and schools may already have the appropriate browser, this method may be the easiest way for a student to apply electronically. A student may use a floppy disk to save his or her data.
For more information about FAFSA on the Web or for technical assistance, a student may call 1-800/801-0576. The web address is http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. For FAAs, Action Letter #3 (Gen 97-13) also provides more information on FAFSA on the Web.
FAFSA Express allows students to apply electronically without using the web; FAFSA Express requires only an IBM-compatible computer with a Windows operating system and a modem. FAFSA Express is often available on computers in libraries, high schools, and postsecondary schools. A student can order the program by calling 1-800/801-0576, or he or she can download it from the web at
A student who files using FAFSA Express may save his or her data to a diskette but cannot save this personal data to a computer's hard drive. A student using FAFSA Express transmits the application data to the CPS via modem.
Renewal FAFSA on the Web
Some students who applied for federal student aid in 1997-98 are able to reapply in 1998-99 on the web using Renewal FAFSA on the Web. Students who are unable to file on the web or choose not to do so are still able to file Renewal FAFSAs on paper, or their schools may submit Renewal FAFSAs electronically using EDE.
The CPS assigns an Electronic Access Code (EAC) randomly to each Renewal FAFSA record. A student who wishes to apply using Renewal FAFSA on the Web must be residing at the same address that is on file from the previous year. He or she must apply for his or her EAC at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. At that website, the student must provide his or her SSN, the first two letters of his or her last name, and his or her date of birth. If the system finds a record that matches the data the student provides, it will ask the student if he or she is still living at the address on file. If the student answers "yes," the system will inform him or her that a unique EAC will be mailed to that address. If the student is no longer living at the address on file, he or she cannot use Renewal FAFSA on the Web. However, the student can still file a paper Renewal FAFSA or have his or her school submit a Renewal FAFSA using EDE.
A student who is still living at the address on file will receive his or her EAC within 7 to 10 days after requesting it. The student then uses his or her EAC, SSN, and date of birth, along with the first two letters of his or her last name to access his or her Renewal FAFSA on the Web record at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. For more information about Renewal FAFSA on the Web or for technical assistance, a student may call 1-800/801-0576. For FAAs, Action Letter #3 (Gen 97-13) also provides more information on Renewal FAFSA on the Web.
Electronic Data Exchange (EDE)
If an FAA wishes to have a student file through EDE, the student should first submit a completed paper FAFSA to the school. EDE allows an FAA or a student to electronically enter the data required for the FAFSA. After the FAA reviews the entered data, the information is sent electronically to the CPS. The CPS then processes the data and sends the school an electronic ISIR and the student a one-part SAR Information Acknowledgement containing the student's information and the results of the eligibility calculation. A SAR Information Acknowledgement allows the student to review his or her application data; a student cannot make corrections on a SAR Information Acknowledgement. EDE services are provided as a part of the Department's contract for the Title IV Wide Area Network (TIV-WAN). For more information on the TIV-WAN an FAA should contact: TIV-WAN Customer Service at 1-800/615-1189.
Obtaining Signatures When a Student Applies Electronically
Like students who apply using paper FAFSAs, those who apply electronically must meet certain signature requirements. The requirements and how a student meets those requirements vary depending on what electronic method the student uses.
FAFSA on the Web and FAFSA Express
FAFSA on the Web and FAFSA Express will ask a student whether or not a printer is available. If one is available, the student should answer "yes." FAFSA on the Web or FAFSA Express will then print a signature page that the student should sign and mail to the CPS. The CPS processes the data and sends the student a SAR. If the CPS does not receive a signature page within 14 calendar days of receiving the data, the student will receive a "reject 16" SAR in the mail. The student must sign this SAR and return it to the CPS. If a printer is not available, the student should indicate "no." FAFSA on the Web or FAFSA Express will not attempt to print a signature page, and the CPS will not wait 14 days to generate a reject 16 SAR; it will generate one within 72 hours of receiving the data.
Schools and states will receive ISIRs for reject 16 records. A student's reject 16 SAR and his or her ISIR will reflect the data that he or she provided on the application; however, the CPS will not calculate an EFC for the student until it receives a signed signature page or a signed SAR.
Renewal FAFSA on the Web
For an independent student, the EAC substitutes for the applicant's signature, so no signature page is necessary. The application will be processed within 72 hours. Then the student will receive a SAR, and the schools listed on his or her application will receive ISIRs.
Because a dependent student must provide a parent's signature, there is still the need for a signature page for a dependent student. After a dependent student completes Renewal FAFSA on the Web, the system will ask the student to print a signature page and have a parent sign it. If the student indicates that no signature page was printed, the CPS will send the applicant a "reject 15" SAR with the required signature page within 72 hours. If the student indicates that a signature page was printed, the CPS will wait up to 14 calendar days to receive the signed page. If the CPS does not receive a signed signature page within 14 days, it will generate a reject 15 SAR and send it to the student. The student must have a parent sign the SAR and must send it to the address on the SAR.
As is the case with FAFSA on the Web and FAFSA Express reject 16 records, schools and states will receive ISIRs for reject 15 records. A student's reject 15 SAR and his or her ISIR will reflect the data that he or she provided on the application; however, the CPS will not calculate an EFC for the student until it receives a signed signature page or a signed SAR. Again, only a parent must sign the signature page or SAR. The EAC substitutes for the student's signature.
If a student applies through the EDE system, the school must obtain the student's signature on a completed paper application or on the "echo document" printed through EDE, and must keep the signed document in its files even if the student does not receive federal student aid or does not attend that school.
Receiving a Student's Application Data
A school will receive the student's application data if that student listed the school on the FAFSA. Also, with the student's permission to use his or her Data Release Number (DRN), formerly the Personal Identification Number (PIN), the school may request an ISIR for a student who did not list the school on the FAFSA. A state agency is also able to receive student data for students residing in that state and for students who list on their FAFSAs schools in that state. A school also has the option of receiving data on magnetic tape or cartridge through Applicant Data Services (ADS). For more information, an FAA should contact ADS customer service at 1-800/330-5947.