Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
The U.S. Department of Education uses the FAFSA to determine how much students and their families are expected to contribute toward college expenses. Additionally, colleges use the FAFSA to determine how much aid students qualify for and what they can award students. To apply for the FAFSA, you must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen. To learn more about eligibility requirements, visit studentaid.gov.
The FAFSA is considered a “snapshot” of a family’s financial situation as of the date an application is submitted. Students must submit the FAFSA for each year they attend college, and there is no fee to submit the FAFSA.
The 2024-25 FAFSA application will incorporate significant changes due to the FAFSA Simplification Act passed in December 2020. The new application has fewer questions to answer, and it should be easier for parents to populate the form with their income information.
Changes to know for 2024–25 FAFSA
- The application has a significantly reduced number of questions. Students and families will be asked 46 questions at most instead of over 100 in previous years.
- Students and parents have distinct "sections" of the FAFSA and won't have access to each other's sections. Parents will have to be "invited" by the student via email as a “contributor” to complete their section of the FAFSA.
- Beginning this aid year, parents who are married but living separately are effectively considered “divorced” and should report as such on the FAFSA. In previous years, students would have the option to select “divorced OR separated” as an option for parent marital status. This year, “separated” will no longer appear as a distinct option.
- All parents will now be required to create "FSA IDs" (electronic accounts for studentaid.gov) to complete the appropriate section and sign the FAFSA, regardless of whether they have a social security number. In previous years, parents without Social Security numbers could not create FSA IDs.
- The number of colleges and universities to which a student can send their application will increase from 10 to 20.
When will the 2024-2025 FAFSA Application Open?
For the 2024-2025 aid year, the FAFSA will be available by December 31, 2023. For the 2025-2026 aid year, the FAFSA will be available on October 1, 2024.
Completing the FAFSA 2024-2025 application can result in a student receiving up to $7,395 in federal Pell Grant funding for college and up to $8,400 in Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grant funding if a student chooses to attend college in the State of Illinois. For more details on the FAFSA process and deadlines for submission, review this information from studentaid.gov.
Students should also reach out to their school counselors and college and career coaches for additional support around financial aid for college.
Whose Information Will I Need to Complete the FAFSA?
For FAFSA purposes, all students are classified as either “Dependent” or “Independent”. Dependent students require the support of one or more of their biological or adoptive parents in order to complete the FAFSA. Independent students do not require any information other than their own to complete the FAFSA. Please reference this guide to determine whether or not a student is dependent or independent.
For dependent students, please reference this chart to determine which parent(s) need to be included as “contributors” on the FAFSA:
Prepare to Submit the 2024-2025 FAFSA Application
- Organize your information: You and your student must gather income records and financial documents before filling out the FAFSA. Download the FAFSA worksheet to help you organize your information before filling out the application.
- Create an FSA ID: Both students and parents are required to create an FSA ID to complete a student’s FAFSA. Beginning in 2024, all parents of eligible dependent students, including those who do not have Social Security Numbers, will also need to create an FSA ID. **Note: Parents without an SSN may encounter technical difficulties when creating an FSA ID; we encourage students to complete their portions while our federal partners work to fix these issues.
- Start and complete the FAFSA application process as soon as possible: Most of the questions on these applications are informed by parents' and students' income and IRS Tax Return data. You may reference this list for document recommendations that will assist with application submission.
Get Help Filling Out the FAFSA
You and your student can get help from a FAFSA expert at a financial aid workshop at your student's school. Bring the completed FAFSA worksheet so you can ask specific questions relating to your application. Ask your student's counselor for FAFSA workshop dates and times.
Free Financial Aid and FAFSA Completion Workshops in English or Spanish are also offered across Illinois through the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), the financial aid agency in the State of Illinois.
Different Ways to Submit the FAFSA
- Apply online at FAFSA.gov
- By Mail: Paper FAFSA applications for the 2024-25 aid year are available here. Note: Speak to your counselor and college representative before utilizing the paper application, as the online application remains preferred by most institutions.
- After submitting your application, follow up with the Financial Aid Office or school counselor no later than March 30, 2024, or when requested. Is important to review the follow-up guides enclosed to learn about other critical steps, including the FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS) and complying with verification.
Alternative Application for Undocumented Residents
Undocumented Illinois residents ineligible for federal student aid through FAFSA can apply for MAP grant funding to attend state colleges, universities, and career education programs by filling out the Alternative Application For Illinois Financial Aid. This application is managed by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and will determine a student’s aid eligibility based on status and financial need.
The application is currently open and available to undocumented students who graduate from an Illinois high school and have resided in Illinois for at least three years.
View the Alternative Application Guide for a list of documents needed to complete the 2024-25 Alternative Application, resources, and other helpful information.
Some colleges, universities, and scholarship programs may require applicants and their families seeking financial aid to complete the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA or the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid. The CSS Profile requires payment of a fee, but fee waivers are available. This application collects information used by nearly 400 colleges and scholarship programs to award non-government financial aid such as grants and scholarships.
The CSS Profile requires more detailed financial information than the FAFSA. View the current list of institutions that require the CSS Profile.