A Guide to the FAFSA

What is the FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for Free Application For Federal Student Aid. It is the form used by the U.S. Department of Education to determine your eligibility for federal financial aid including grants, loans and work-study. 

When can I apply?
If you are a senior in high school you can begin filling out your FAFSA after January 1st. Priority is given to early filers, and some forms of financial aid are on a first come, first serve basis. 

Where do I find the FAFSA?
You can locate and complete your FAFSA on the Web. The online FAFSA is faster than the paper form, with financial aid results arriving within 1-2 weeks. Doing your application online minimizes errors and automatically skips questions that are not relevant to you. You don't have to be intimidated by all of the information that is requested. The FAFSA is easy to fill out and, in most cases, takes very little time.

Application Steps

Step 1
Choose the school(s) you are interested in.

Step 2
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application will determine the type(s) of federal aid for which you are eligible.

To complete the FAFSA you will need the Title IV code for each school you list on the application. You can obtain each school’s Title IV code at https://fafsa.ed.gov/FAFSA/app/schoolSearch?locale=en_EN.

Step 3
You may apply for a Personal Identification Number (PIN) at www.pin.ed.gov.  With your PIN you may access your FAFSA, sign your FAFSA electronically or sign your Master Promissory Note (MPN) electronically.

Next your financial need will be determined by the school. The financial aid office calculates your need by subtracting your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from the Cost of Attendance (COA). Information from the FAFSA helps determine your EFC. Your EFC will be the same at any college you plan to attend. The COA, however, varies and will usually include the following: tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies and personal and other miscellaneous expenses.

Once your FAFSA has been processed, your school will notify you of the type and the amount of financial aid that you may be eligible to receive. There are several different types of financial aid available.

Step 4
You will receive a Student Aid Report and your school will receive an Institutional Student Information Report (ISIR).

More Information

Below are some helpful sites regarding the FAFSA. Use these sites to apply for financial aid, receive your pin number, find school codes and learn more about college and FAFSA preparation.

FAFSA On the Web
The Pin Web Site
FSA Student Portal
Federal School Codes

For questions regarding your FAFSA application or to request materials call 1 800 4 FED AID.

Important Deadlines

Listed below are a couple of dates that are important to remember when applying for financial aid. We have also explained different ways that deadlines can be interpreted. Let us know if there is anything else we can do to help you get your applications turned in on time.

Federal Student Financial Aid Yearly Deadlines

  • June 30 - FAFSA must be filled out on the Web, renewed on the Web, or submitted in paper form by midnight Central Daylight time.
  • September 15 - Corrections on the FAFSA Web forms must be submitted by midnight Central Daylight time.

It is important to note the type of deadline you are up against. Ask your school about their definition of an application deadline, whether it is the receipt date and time, or the process date and time of the application. The Department of Education considers an application's receipt date and time to be when the application/correction has been successfully submitted. On the last page (called the Confirmation Page) of the FAFSA online submission process, a confirmation number can be found. This number contains the exact date and time (Central Standard Time) the form was received. It is recommended you print this for your records.

FAFSA applications must be completed and accepted by midnight to meet the deadline. If the application is started before midnight but is not completed until after midnight, it will not meet the deadline. In addition, any application submitted on the deadline date that contains errors may not be able to be reprocessed in time.

State Student Financial Aid Deadlines
State deadlines may be earlier than the federal deadline. Your state may also require an additional form. Check the requirements and deadlines.

Note: State forms do not replace filling out the FAFSA. You must fill out the FAFSA to receive federal student aid.

School Student Financial Aid Deadlines
Schools have their own deadlines and applications for awarding student aid. Check with the school's financial aid office for information.

School priority deadlines are as follows:

February 15 March 1
University of Montana-Missoula 
Missoula College University of Montana
Blackfeet Community College
Carroll College 
Chief Dull Knife College
Dawson Community College 
Flathead Valley Community College
Fort Belknap College 
Fort Peck Community College
Little Big Horn College
Miles Community College
Montana State University-Bozeman
Montana State University-Billings 
City College at Montana State University Billings
Montana State University-Northern 
Great Falls College Montana State University
Montana Tech 
Highlands College of Montana Tech
Rocky Mountain College 
Salish Kootenai College 
Stone Child College
University of Great Falls
University of Montana-Helena College University of Montana
University of Montana Western 

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