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What is the FSA ID? The Top 5 FAFSA Terms You Need to Know

You probably already know the FAFSA is the Free Application for Financial Aid. And you need to submit one to have a chance at qualifying for any federal student aid. Before you dive into all that form-filling, make it easier on yourself by taking a minute to review some of the new terms you're going to run into.

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Your Federal Student Aid Identification is the username and password you'll create to log in to the FAFSA website, as well as any other federal website that contains your education loan and grant information. It’s used in place of an electronic signature and also acts as a sign-in ID to initiate and amend forms.

Parents signing their children’s forms online also need their own FSA ID. 

Your FSA ID serves as your legal signature online, so be sure to carefully protect it. 

See also: How Does the FAFSA Work?

2. Parent information

Parent information refers to the parental asset and income information you have to provide. Whose info you report can be tricky to figure out for divorced or non-traditional family structures, but there are rules to follow. In short: If your parents are still married, report both of their incomes and assets. If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together, report the financial information of the parent you lived with the most during the year. If that parent is married, you’ll also report step-parent income.

See also: 4 FAFSA Tips for Students with Divorced Parents

3. Independent Student

Students are classified as either dependent or independent students. Which status you have makes a big difference in your potential aid amount. Independent students can get more financial aid because their parental financial information doesn’t affect how much aid they receive.

So if an independent student made $10,000 in one year and her parents made $120,000, need-based financial aid is awarded based on the student's $10,000 income.

Most students going straight from high school to college are considered dependent students, whether or not their parents contribute to their college expenses. The primary exceptions: students who were in foster care, are married, whose parents are deceased, or who have been legally emancipated. Active duty military service also leads to independent status.

Aside from those situations, independent students are generally 24 or older. 

See also: How to Answer Independent v. Dependent Student for the FAFSA

4. School Codes

Each school that qualifies for federal financial aid has an associated school code. But the schools you apply to won’t know you want financial aid unless you tell them. Filling in school codes on the FAFSA is your way of letting them know that, if you're accepted and decide to attend, you'd like them to give you some money.

The school codes are easy to find by using this link. Don’t forget a school code! Keep in mind that you're not in any way obligated to attend or even apply to schools listed, so it’s best to include any school that could be a potential college choice.

See also: The #1 Most-Costly Mistake People Make When Paying for College

5. Financial aid

A lot falls under the financial aid umbrella, including grants, scholarships, student loans, and work-study. The FAFSA covers all federal aid as well as some state-based and college-based aid. When you fill out the FAFSA, you're asking about your financial aid eligibility. But you only accept what you want. For instance, you can reject all or some of the student loans you're offered. The biggest mistake you can make is not filling out the form, especially when part of the award could be money that doesn’t have to be repaid.

FAFSA help is available 

Be sure to check our question-by-question FAFSA guide to help ensure that you qualify for the maximum amount of financial aid that you're entitled to. 

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