The FAFSA is an essential part of the college process because it makes students eligible for government aid (grants, scholarships, and loans) and aid from the college (merit based scholarships).  The state of Michigan’s financial aid programs and the Manistee County Community Foundation’s scholarships also require the FAFSA.

It may take between 30-45 minutes to complete the FAFSA. In order to be prepared to answer each question, have the following information ready:

  • A personal email address
  • Student and parent social security numbers
  • Student driver’s license (if you have one)
  • Student 2020 W-2, tax return, and untaxed income records (if applicable)
  • Parent 2020 W-2, tax return, and untaxed income records
  • Current student and parent bank statement(s) and investments (if applicable)
  • Current business records for parent or student (if applicable)
  • List of colleges the student has applied to or plans on applying to

If you are an independent student, you will not need parent information. Students may be considered independent if: they are 21 years old, have children, are an emancipated minor, or are under a legal guardianship. See Step 6 on Dependency Status for more information.

Below is a step by step guide on how to fill out the FAFSA. There is a full length walk through as well as short clips for each section.



The FSA ID is your username and password to access the FAFSA and serves as your legal signature . Click here to create your FSA ID!

You will need the following:

  • A personal email address
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your mailing address

Be sure to write down your username and password! You’ll need to access your account each year you are in college.



Log into the FAFSA with your FSA ID. Click here to get started.

Be sure to select the FAFSA for the 2022-2023 school year!

You will be prompted to create a save key, so if you have to exit and continue at a later time, you can return to the spot where you left off.

** We suggest making the save key the year you graduate (ex. 2022) or your birth year (ex. 2004) to make it easy to remember!



The next screen will be a FAQ section. Read through if you would like and select next. You’ll be able to see the questions throughout the FAFSA if you get stuck by selecting the blue question marks.

Fill out the student information. Some lines will be filled in already due to you providing that information on your FSA ID.  Make sure it is all correct.

If you do not have a driver’s license, you can skip that question by selecting next.

Helpful Hints:

For the question: “What will your current college grade level be?” — Select “Never attended college / 1st yr”, even if you are a dual enrolled student.

Work study is an on campus job. Select yes!  (This does not mean you will have a guaranteed on campus job, but you will be given priority if you qualify.)

If you are a male- you MUST be registered with Selective Service in order to receive federal student aid. If you are not registered or if you are unsure – select “no” and the following question will ask if you would like to be registered – select “yes.” This will save you a trip when you turn 18 and have to register!



First, you will have to enter your high school information. Once you fill in the information, click Search.  Then, click Select on your high school. Then hit next to continue.

Enter colleges that you have applied to or plan on applying to. Search for them by entering the state and the name of the college. You can add up to ten colleges.

Enter your housing plans for each college. If you are unsure about living on campus or not, it is best to select “On Campus.” You can change your mind later on.



The questions in this section will determine if you are a dependent or an independent student (ex: student’s marital status, if the student has any dependents, if the student has been in the foster care system, and more).

If you are a dependent- you MUST provide parent information.

If you are an independent- you do not provide parent information (skip steps 6 and 7).



In this section, you will fill out information about your parents. You may be asking yourself: Which parent information do I need to put on my FAFSA?

  • If your biological parents are married, include both
  • If your biological parents live together but are not married, include both
  • If your parents are divorced, include the parent who you live with the most. If the amount of time is equal, include the parent who provides the more financials support
  • If the parent is remarried, include your parent and your step parent.
  • Important parent information you will need to know:
  • Parent(s) marital status
  • The month and year they were married or divorced
  • Parent(s) Social Security Number
  • Parent email address

*If one or both of your parents are not U.S. citizens and therefore do not have a social security number, put 000-00-000.



This section asks for your parent’s tax information.

If you are filling out the 2022-2023 FAFSA, you need tax information from 2020.

The easiest way to complete this section is to use the IRS data retrieval tool. However, not everyone is eligible to use this tool. If you are not, follow the instructions and manually enter the numbers on your tax return and W2s.

Helpful Hint:

If you or your parents are concerned about your 2020 tax information not reflecting your current financial situation (due to job loss, significant salary changes, ect), still continue to use 2020 tax information. After you submit the FAFSA, contact the college’s financial aid office. The college may ask for additional paperwork and will take this into consideration when distributing financial aid.



This section asks for the student’s tax information. Students may also be eligible to use the IRS data retrieval tool.

Some students did not work in 2020, and therefore do not have a 2020 tax return or W-2. Select that you did not file.

You may still need to report any untaxed income from 2020.



The FSA ID serves as the electronic signature.

Both the parent and student will need to agree to the terms and conditions and enter their respective FSA IDs. Only 1 parent needs to sign.

*If the FSA ID was used earlier to use the IRS data retrieval tool, it may not ask for the FSA ID again.

** The video says to print before signing. This is optional and only if you want to keep a copy for your personal records. You can always access your Student Aid Report by logging back in to the FAFSA.

CONGRATULATIONS on submitting the FAFSA!



After a few days, you will get an email notifying you that your FAFSA has been processed.

Log back into your FAFSA to view your Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR will tell you if they have detected any errors and if corrections have to be made.

Your SAR may also tell you if you have been selected for a process called “Verification”. Click here to learn more about this process and what your next steps are.

You will start to receive College Financing Plans (formerly known as Award Letters) from the colleges that you listed on your FAFSA and were accepted to in the late winter or early Spring.  Learn more about interpreting these plans by clicking here.

If you need to make changes or if you want to add a college you did not list, see the video on the left.

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