In 2015, FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) switched from using a four-digit PIN to a more secure Federal Student Loan (FSA) ID.
If you haven’t already, you’d be well advised to create your FSA ID for immediate access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems. It also serves as a legal, electronic signature for your aid application. The new ID does not require users to provide sensitive information (like a Social Security Number or date of birth) when signing in, providing better protection of personal information.
Your FSA ID identifies you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on ED websites such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) at fafsa.gov. At this site you can:
- Electronically sign your (or your child’s) FAFSA.
- Import your tax information from the Internal Revenue Service.
- Prefill data in this year´s FAFSA if you filed a FAFSA last year. That’s called filling out a Renewal FAFSA.
- Make online corrections to an existing FAFSA.
- View or print an online copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR).
Depending on where you use the FSA ID to log in, you will have access to a variety of new resources.
- View a history of any federal student aid that you have received.
- Look up your loan servicer’s contact information.
Agreement to Serve (ATS) at www.teach-ats.ed.gov
- Sign your ATS for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program.
The most widely used purpose is found through StudentLoans.gov where you can apply for an income-driven repayment plan or a consolidation loan of existing federal student loan debt obligations and:
- Complete entrance counseling, the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool, or exit counseling.
- Electronically sign a master promissory note (MPN).
- Complete PLUS loan requests.
- Estimate your student loan payments using the Repayment Estimator.
So even if you aren’t looking for new student loans, you’ll want to get set up right away. And sooner rather than later because it isn’t always as easy to set up as it should be.
Some families in the past have reported challenges when trying to create their FSA ID, explains Mary Nucciarone, director of financial aid at the University of Notre Dame. Doing so earlier can help iron out any glitches you might encounter before you need to file. It’s also important that parents and students create their own IDs for their own exclusive use—and not on behalf of a family member. That way, you’re less likely to lose access to that information and get locked out of your account.
Then, when it is time to fill out the FAFSA, make sure you’re looking at the 2017–2018 school year, cautions Rachelle Feldman, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since there can often be FAFSA forms from multiple years on the web, some families mistakenly fill out the wrong one, slowing down the financial aid process. So like with any document, read carefully.