Home Financial Aid Tips Filling Out the FAFSA for Federal Student Aid – Part 2
Filling Out the FAFSA for Federal Student Aid – Part 2

Filling Out the FAFSA for Federal Student Aid – Part 2

Learn more about degree programs at American Public University.

By Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS 

Note: This is the second of three articles on completing the FAFSA.

In the FAFSA Part I article last week, we discussed Step One of the FAFSA process. Steps Two and Three in the FAFSA assess your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is a major factor in determining your FSA eligibility.

Before filling out Step Two, gather all of your income and tax documents. These documents could include your IRS Form 1040, IRS Form 1040A, IRS Form 1040EZ and one or two W-2 forms from employers if you had a job or two in the past year or so. If you did not earn any income in the 2017 tax year, read the instructions in this section carefully.

Providing Marital Status and Tax Information in Step Two of the FAFSA

Your marital status determines the information you will need to provide to answer the questions in Step Two. If you are married as of the day you are filling out the FAFSA, include both your information as well as your spouse’s. If you are not married, you just provide your own information.

The first question in Step Two asks if you have filed a federal tax return. If you are not planning or are not required to file a tax return, skip to the section on earnings. If you have filed (or will file) a federal tax return, you need to note which IRS form you filed as well as your tax filing status on the FAFSA.

The next series of questions can be difficult to answer because they call for your tax information. However, the FAFSA provides instructions and help text on how to find the necessary data and figures from your tax forms. This type of information pertains to your income, income tax withheld, exemptions, and any other deductions and earnings, including investments, real estate and business earnings.

There are several other income-related questions that may or may not apply to you. If a certain question does not apply to you, put “$0” in the appropriate box. Otherwise, fill out the amount to the nearest dollar. If you have further questions, reach out to an FSA advisor at the school to which you intend to apply.

Assessing Your Dependency Status for Step Three

While Step Two may be the most detailed section of the FAFSA, Step Three is straightforward and assesses your dependency status. If you can answer “Yes” to any of the questions in Step Three, you are considered “independent” and do not need to fill out Step Four. If you answer “No” to every question in Step Three, you are considered “dependent” and will require your parent(s) information to fill out Step Four.

Your dependency status determines whether or not parental information is required on the FAFSA and how much, ultimately, you may receive in loans.

It is important to note that the FAFSA defines a dependent differently than IRS or other agencies. Steps Two and Three are important parts of the FAFSA because they factor into calculating your EFC and overall eligibility for FSA. Step Two covers your financial situation, while Step Three confirms your dependency status.

In the final installment of this series, we will cover Steps Four through Seven. We will see how your answers in Step Three factor into whether or not you need to complete other steps to provide additional information.

Steps Four through Seven will put the finishing touches on the FAFSA. After you complete the FAFSA, you will be one step closer to starting college.

Learn more about degree programs at American Public University.