Fill Out the FAFSA

Your Key to Receiving Financial Aid 

Need money for college? Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – commonly known as the FAFSA ¬– is your key to billions of dollars in federal grants, loans, and work-study payments, along with state funding and some types of help from OCC.

Your answers on the FAFSA determine whether you have “financial need” as defined by the federal government. Having need qualifies you for federal grants that you don’t have to pay back, work-study where you earn money for college with a job, low-interest loans where the federal government pays the interest while you’re in school, and some scholarships. 

Think you should skip the FAFSA because your family’s income is too high for you to receive aid? Think again. Virtually everyone qualifies at least for federal loans at interest rates lower than you can get from private lenders. Each year, students who skip the FAFSA leave billions of dollars in federal student aid on the table. You don’t want to be one of them.

A new FAFSA form becomes available each school year. You should fill it out promptly because some programs have limited funds that run out. 

How to Fill Out the FAFSA

The first step in filling out the FAFSA is creating what’s known as a FSA ID. With this ID, you can fill out the FAFSA, complete loan counseling, sign loan documents, and apply for repayment plans. To create a FSA ID, you need your Social Security number and your own cell phone number and/or email address. The U.S. Department of Education says you should keep your FSA ID private, not even sharing it with your parents (they can get their own FSA ID if needed).

Before you start filling out the FAFSA, it’s best to gather information you may need:

  • Your Social Security number and your parents’ Social Security numbers if you’re a dependent student.
  • Your driver’s license number if you have one.
  • Your Alien Registration number if you’re not a U.S. citizen.
  • Records of untaxed income, such as child support received, for you and for your parents if you’re a dependent student.
  • Information about bank accounts, investments, real estate other than your home, and business and farm assets for you and for your parents if you’re a dependent student.
  • OCC’s school code, which is 002303 for all campuses.

The FAFSA also requires information from your federal income tax return and from your parents’ tax return if you’re a dependent student. But there’s a neat shortcut that can save you lots of time and trouble. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which you access through the online FAFSA, will automatically transfer all of your required tax information into the form. To protect your privacy and security, when you transfer tax data to the FAFSA you don’t see any numbers. Instead, in the appropriate fields it says “Transferred from the IRS.”

It's easiest to fill out the FAFSA online, although you can download a PDF version if needed.

If Your Financial Situation Has Changed

Because of how it’s set up, the FAFSA may not accurately reflect your current financial situation and need for financial aid. To ensure it gets verified income numbers, the FAFSA requires you to enter data from two years earlier. For example, if you’re filling out the form for the 2023-2024 school year, you enter income and tax numbers from 2021.

A lot may have happened to you in that two-year period. You or your parent may have lost a job, a family medical crisis may have depleted savings, other large unexpected expenses may have drained money set aside for school, and so forth.

If you’ve suffered a major financial setback, fill out the FAFSA with income numbers for the year it requires and file the form. Then contact OCC’s Financial Aid office to explain your situation. We may be able to increase your aid, although a boost isn’t guaranteed. Having documentation increases your chances of qualifying for more financial aid.

Get Help With the FAFSA

If you have questions about filling out the FAFSA, lots of free help is available:

What Happens Next?

What happens after you submit your FAFSA? Find out at How We Calculate Your Financial Aid.

And one last thing: You must renew your FAFSA every year that you’re in college. When you do, the form will prefill with information from your previous FAFSA. You just have to provide new income information and update anything that has changed.