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What documents do I need to apply for financial aid?

January 28, 2019

Deciding how to finance your education can be a daunting task. You’ve done the hard part - you’ve earned the grades, you’ve written your personal statement, you’ve taken the tests. Whether you’ve already completed all of your college checklist items or are only beginning the college search and application process, you no doubt have questions about how to afford the next step in your education. Planning how to finance your college tuition is a daunting task, but the key to managing it easily and keeping your sanity? Organization.


The main two documents that play a role in applying for financial aid are called the FAFSA and the CSS Profile. The FAFSA is the main form required for receiving federal financial aid, while the CSS Profile is a form operated by the College Board required for application for financial aid at many private universities.


The best way to stay organized is to make sure that you have all of the necessary documents ready by the time that you sit down to fill out your paperwork, since scrambling to gather it all at the last minute will only add to the pressure of the application process. So we’ll break down for you what forms you and your parents need to prepare before you sit down to tackle the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile.


Let’s break down the forms that you will need for both the FAFSA and the CSS profile before looking at the additional documents needed for each one specifically.

  • Your Social Security Number (or, Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen))

  • Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned.

    • These documents must contain the records of the current year’s and last year’s income as well as taxes owed and paid

    • You may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to quickly transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA

  • Bank statements and records of investments (if any exist)

  • Records of untaxed income (if any exists)


Additionally, you’ll need to obtain the following documents:


To fill out the FAFSA, you’ll need:

  • An FSA ID to sign electronically

    • You can obtain this ID by registering here.


For the CSS Profile, you’ll need:

  • A College Board account - if you’ve taken the SAT, PSAT, or any AP Credit classes, you should already have set up and account to register and view your scores, so you would use the same login information. If you have never registered with the College Board, you can set up an account here.

  • Your mortgage information

  • Any information regarding ownership of small businesses and other assets


Make sure to remember that as a dependent student, you will also need to have the above information for your parent(s).


Although putting together the documents above may seem like a hefty feat right now, you’ll be glad you took care of it ahead of time and saved yourself the frustration of frantically searching for documents at the last minute. With the right time management and organization, tackling the FAFSA and CSS Profile will seem like a breeze compared to tackling the college application itself!