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Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Need help with the FAFSA - Iowa College Access Network

The Iowa College Access Network (ICAN) is a non-profit organization serving schools, students, and parents with financial aid, college and career planning services with services that are largely free of charge.  One-on-one appointments for FAFSA assistance is free of charge.  Other services are available such as college planning, scholarship planning, career assistance, and many others.  ICAN does charge to travel to schools for in-person group presentations.  

There are many changes occurring this year for the 2024-25 college year, and it would be very helpful to students and families to register for a free ICAN virtual presentation on financial aid.  ICAN has an advisor that travels to IWCC two days a month, but FAFSA assistance is available virtually using ICAN advisors all of the State of Iowa.

To see a list of the major changes in the FAFSA for the 2024-25 college year, go to this link: FAFSA Changes 2024-25

Create the Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID)

The website address for the FAFSA is found at: studentaid.gov

All new FSA ID's for students and parents will be required to process first before being used on the FAFSA.

Student Financial Aid

Student financial aid can include any or all of the following:

  • Grants & Scholarships - gift money that students are not required to pay back
  • Work Study - jobs on a college campus in which the student works and receives wages
  • Student Loans - loans which can be used to finance a student's education; a major source of loans come from the federal government through its student loan program

Why complete the FAFSA?

1. To qualify for federal and state financial aid programs based on need
2. To be eligible for a federal Stafford student loan regardless of need or income
3. So colleges can see a student's FAFSA before they distribute their own financial aid
4. Some scholarships require page one of the Student Aid Report (SAR) to be included with scholarship materials
5. It is free and can possibly yield positive benefits
6. If a parent employment status would change due to illness or loss of job.

7.  It is required for the Last Dollar Scholarship for career and technical programs in Iowa colleges which could mean two years of free tuition.

Click here for the information you will need to have to complete the 2024-25 FAFSA.

The 2024-25 FAFSA does not become available online until the month of December.  New Date

1. Set up an FSA ID - to learn more about setting up an FSA ID go to this link:  Create a FSA ID.

2. File the FAFSA - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the basic federal government form for students to file to apply for financial aid. It is required to be filed for most federal and state sources of financial aid including federally subsidized student loans. The FAFSA cannot be filed until after October 1 of a calendar year in which a student will attend the next academic year including while a student is in college. The FAFSA may be filed electronically over the Internet or in paper form. The electronic form is the most popular way to file the FAFSA. The FAFSA website is located at studentaid.gov. The student will need to list the colleges that they are considering attending in the FAFSA.

3.  When to file the FAFSA.  Colleges establish financial aid priority dates.  These are the dates in which the colleges want the FAFSA completed so the student will have the best chance for financial aid.  It is not true that is Student A files the FAFSA before Student B, then Student A will receive more financial aid.  The financial aid priority date for that college is when the FAFSA should be completed. Iowa college financial aid priority date: Click Here.

3. Receive a FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS) - After filing the FAFSA, a student and parent will receive a FSS. The FSS is a listing of all the information that was entered in the FAFSA. If an e-mail address is entered in the FAFSA, the FSS will be sent by e-mail. If not, a paper copy of the FSS will be sent to the student and parent. It is important to check the FSS for any errors in information and if found, can be corrected in the FAFSA electronically or by contacting the college financial aid office of the student or by logging into the FAFSA and making the correction. It is important to keep the FSS in case any information is needed later.

4. Verification - Colleges are required by the federal government to verify a percentage of their students' FAFSAs. This may be a random check or some colleges may actually verify all of their students FAFSA numbers. If this happens to you, you are not under suspicion of doing something wrong, it is just a requirement that colleges have to complete. Just follow the directions that that college sends to you, and the process should be fairly easy to complete.

5. Review the financial aid award statement - In the spring (March to early May), students will receive a financial aid award statement from the colleges which they have been admitted and where the student's FAFSA information has been sent. Students and parents need to evaluate the financial aid statement and decide if they are willing to accept that package from the particular college.

6. Return and agree to the financial aid statement - If the financial aid statement is agreeable to the student, then either by paper or electronically, the student will need to sign it and return it to the financial aid office.

7. Change in financial aid situation - If a student's financial aid situation changes drastically after filing the FAFSA (i.e. parent losing a job or parent becoming ill or disabled and cannot work), contact the college financial aid office to see if they will do a professional judgment to compensate for the student's financial situation.  

8. Check eligibility for State of Iowa student aid programs - Students need to do the eligibility wizard that is available to check on eligibility for State of Iowa student aid programs and to complete the Iowa Financial Aid Application if eligible. To access the wizard and the Iowa Financial Aid Application go to the Iowa College Aid Commission website.

9. Reminder - Students will need to complete the FAFSA and the financial aid process for each year that they are in college.