What Do I Need For The FAFSA? FAFSA Required Documents

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This is part of the fifth chapter in Diane Melville’s “All About Financial Aid” series. See the bottom of this post for more links on today’s topic, documents required for the FAFSA.

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has gotten easier and easier every year. Today, the most challenging part of completing the FAFSA is knowing what documents to have on hand before you can apply.

To help eliminate any surprises, I’m going to go over all of the required documents that you’ll need with you when you complete the FAFSA, as well as some tips on how to find them.


The information you’ll need to complete the FAFSA is:

  • Your Social Security number.
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen).
  • Your most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned.
  • Bank statements and records of any investments.
  • Records of any untaxed income you’ve received—like  child support or interest income.
  • Most of the above information for your parents, if you’re a dependent student.

The forms that always seem to trip up students are the income tax return forms and W-2s. Here are a couple of tips on these documents:

  • First, if you or your parents earned zero income in the previous year (and they do not plan on filing tax returns), then you don’t need tax documents such as a W-2 and IRS tax returns; however, you and your parents may need to complete an additional form to verify how you supported yourselves on no income.
  • Also, employers are required to send out W-2s for the previous year before January 31. You’ll need to wait until you or your parents receive this form before you can apply for the FAFSA.
  • Finally, one helpful trick is to know that if there was no change in income at all for either you or your parents, then you can estimate your income for the current year based on the previous one without needing your actual tax return forms. Again, only estimate your income if there has been no change at all in financial status since the last tax return. Just remember to update the FAFSA with your ACTUAL income once it’s available, or opt for the Data Retrieval Tool.

For more information on required documents needed to complete the FAFSA, check out these helpful posts:

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