Skip to main content
A woman walking a dog in front of the Central Michigan University seal.


We’ve broken down how to file the FAFSA into four simple steps. Find out what you need to get started.

Start your FAFSA

Step 1: Determine your student status 

The FAFSA asks questions that determine whether you are a dependent or independent student for purposes of applying for federal student aid. If you are a dependent student, you must report parent information as well as your own information on your application.


If you answer yes to any of these questions you may be independent:

  • At least 24 years old.
  • Married or separated but not divorced.
  • A graduate or professional student.
  • A veteran.
  • A member of the armed forces.
  • An orphan or a ward of the court.
  • Someone with legal dependents other than a spouse.
  • An emancipated minor.
  • Homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.


If you answered no to all questions, then you are likely a dependent student. You may be required to provide your parent(s)' financial information when completing the FAFSA.

Step 2: Gather what you need

The FAFSA asks questions about you (the student) and your financial situation. The 2023-24 FAFSA will ask for 2021 tax information.

Gather the following documents:

1. Your Social Security number (U.S. citizens); your Alien Registration number (non-U.S. citizens)

2. Your parent(s)’ Social Security number(s)*

3. Your driver’s license number if you have one

4. Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information for you (and your spouse if you are married) and for your parent(s)*:

• IRS 1040

• Foreign tax return, IRS 1040NR, or IRS 1040NR-EZ

• Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau

5. Records of your untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits, for you and for your parent(s)*

6. Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks and bonds and real estate (but not including the home in which you live); and business and farm assets for you and for your parent(s)*

*Documents required for dependent students.

Step 3: Get started on the form

Ready to get started? Completing the FAFSA on a desktop computer is recommended.

1. Create an FSA ID to begin your FAFSA online and sign your form electronically. Your name will need to match your name on your Social Security card. If you’re a dependent student, one of your parent(s) whose tax information is reported on the FAFSA will need their own FSA ID to sign your application.


2. Log in to the FAFSA.


3. Identify and list the colleges to which you would like information sent. You must search or enter the Federal School Codes of the schools to which you would like information sent.

CMU’s Federal School Code:

4. Fill out your financial information and your parent(s)’ information, if you are a dependent. Tip: You may be able to have tax information from the Internal Revenue Service automatically transferred into your FAFSA. If the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is available to you, your tax information is there, saving you time from looking up your tax forms and the peace of mind knowing the data is entered error free.

5. Electronically sign and submit your FAFSA. Print the signature page. You’ll receive a confirmation page by email once your FAFSA is successfully submitted.

Step 4: What’s next after I file?

You will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) by email or mail in about two weeks that gives you basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid as well as listing your answers to the FAFSA questions. You have the opportunity to make any changes. Once this is accurate, work on your financial aid award begins.

What you qualify for

It may take several weeks for you to receive your financial aid award package. This package is what you’ve been waiting for. It shows what you qualify for: federal aid and loans, state grants, and the scholarships and grants you’ve earned. It will also show suggested loan options (you can choose to accept or deny these) based on your expected family contribution.