Understand the Different Types of the FAFSA

Use either format of the FAFSA: electronic or paper.

The FAFSA is available in two formats: electronic and paper.

Electronic FAFSA (FAFSA on the Web)

The majority of students now use the Department of Education's FAFSA on the Web to apply for federal financial aid.


The student and one of his or her parents sign the FAFSA on the Web using an electronic signature (Personal Identification Number, or PIN). Students and parents can get their PINs before completing the FAFSA on the Web, as early as November at http://www.pin.ed.gov.

However, if you do not have a PIN before completing FAFSA on the Web, a PIN will be assigned to you during the application submission process.

The FAFSA on the Web (www.fafsa.ed.gov) is an Internet application that students use to apply electronically for federal financial aid. The FAFSA on the Web offers applicants distinct advantages over the paper format:

  • It is easy to use.
  • There is no software to download or install.
  • Its built-in edits help applicants detect and correct errors before submitting the application.
    • This feature significantly reduces the number of applications rejected by the Department of Education due to incorrect or missing information (less than half of a percent of electronic FAFSAs are rejected, compared to 12% of paper applications).
  • Its skip logic allows students to answer only those questions that apply to them, and skip those questions that do not apply to them.
  • Students can access the application with a web browser, make corrections, and update information (like adding schools).

Other Electronic Resources

The following online resources located at the FAFSA on the website are available to both electronic and paper applicants.

  • Check status of a submitted FAFSA*
  • Make corrections*
  • Print Student Aid Report (SAR)*
  • State deadlines
  • Find my school codes (federal school code search)

* PIN required.


Students can print a paper FAFSA at http://www.ifap.ed.gov/fafsa/122308FAFSAEnglishSpanish0910.html. Students can also request a paper FAFSA by calling 1-800-4FED-AID (1-800-443-3243) or TTY users (for the hearing impaired) can call 1-800-730-8913.

La FAFSA en español

A Spanish version of the paper and electronic FAFSA is available for students and families who are more comfortable applying in Spanish.

The online and paper versions of the FAFSA can be accessed by using the same instructions above.

Renewal FAFSA

The Department of Education also provides an on-line Renewal FAFSA to students who applied for federal aid during the previous award year.

For example, students who applied for federal financial aid in 2013-2014 may complete an on-line Renewal FAFSA for 2014-2015.

The Renewal FAFSA includes the same questions as the initial FAFSA; however, certain data items that are likely to remain constant from year to year are pre-populated with the student's prior year responses.

The student is prompted to update or complete the information for those questions that generally do not remain constant from year to year.

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