​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​File your FAFSA as soon as Oct. 1

Higher education is one of the most significant investments you’ll make in your life. One of the biggest factors in deciding where you’ll attend college is determining how you and your family will pay for it. There’s one important (and free) tool you can use to find out how much federal, state and college-specific aid you’ll receive.

What is it?

​Your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The U.S. Department of Education uses an annual application called the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. Eligibility is based largely on your family’s income and how much a given university costs.

What can FAFSA do for you?

It's simple:

  • Filing your FAFSA = potential $$$
  • Not filing a FAFSA = missed financial opportunities​

Filing your FAFSA as soon as possible gives you several advantages.

  • You'll know how much federal, state and institutional aid is available to you.
  • You’ll have more time to understand your financial aid package and what you'll have to pay out of pocket.
  • You will have more time to plan your finances for your college career.

So, am I guaranteed money by filling out the FAFSA?

No, but you could miss out on thousands of dollars in aid if you don’t fill it out. At CMU, nearly 80 percent of students receive some type of financial aid. Many of these students receive this funding by filing their FAFSA.

My parents/family members are planning to pay all my college expenses. Do I need to fill out a FAFSA?

  • Completing a FAFSA is not mandatory, but it’s a good idea to have on record if your financial situation changes.
  • You may be eligible for other forms of financial aid, even if you don’t have a financial need. However, you can’t qualify for need-based aid without a FAFSA filed.

When can I start filling out a FAFSA?

You can complete a FAFSA as early as Oct. 1 of the year before you’ll use any aid granted. For the 2017-18 academic year, that means you can file as early as Oct. 1, 2016, using tax data from the 2015 year. You will need:

  • Your parents' or guardians' 2015 income tax information (if a dependent student)
  • Your personal 2015 income tax information, W-2s and other records of money earned (if applicable)
  • Your spouse’s 2015 income tax information (if applicable)
  • To submit your FAFSA to CMU, use our school code: 002243

How do I start my FAFSA?

It's an easy three-step process:

  1. Create a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID). Each student, parent and borrower needs one to confirm their identity and act as an electronic signature. Create your ID here.
  2. Start your FAFSA
  3. Link your family's tax data to the FAFSA by using the IRS Data Retrieval tool. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows you to prefill the answers to some questions on the FAFSA by transferring data from previous federal tax returns. Link to the tool while filing your FAFSA, under the finance section titled 'Link to IRS'.

OK, my FAFSA is submitted. When can I expect my financial aid package?

If your FAFSA is complete with all the appropriate information, your financial aid package will be sent to you as early as February. Once received, follow the step-by-step instructions to accept any given award.

Great! Is there anything else I need to do?

Many financial aid programs require you to complete additional forms besides the FAFSA, so check the requirements for state, school and private awards to make sure your application is complete.