(UPDATE: October 2022)
The first step of the FAFSA process, creating your FSA ID, has been a technical challenge for many students and their families this fall.
This should be easy to do, but the U.S. Department of Education’s website has been overloaded with all of the interest in President Biden’s debt forgiveness programs. If you are have problems completing your FSA ID or the FAFSA, the best advice is to login as early in the morning as you can. That’s when web traffic tends to be lowest.
But there are other reasons the website might hang up on you. Luckily, we’ve figured out a few tricks to avoid the most common problems.
Ten Tips for Setting Up Your FSA ID
1. Know that students and parents get separate FSA IDs
If you are in high school or an undergraduate in college, you probably need to complete the FAFSA with the help of one of your parents. If this is the case, you both need to create an FSA ID. (Note: If your parent created an FSA ID for one of your siblings, they will simply log in using this information. You may want to ask your sibling if your parent forgot the FSA ID info.) Make your life easier: Create a username and password you’ll remember easily, and back this up with your cell phone number and an email address you check frequently.
2. Start early
It’s best to get your FSA ID a few days before you start filling out the FAFSA. After you successfully register for your FSA ID, it can take up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA electronically. Take a look at this page to learn about the FAFSA process and how to get started.
3. Gather your documents
4. Reboot your computer
Trust us. You’ve probably been doing a million things. Your computer needs a fresh start. Do a full reboot of your computer. If you know how to clear your cache, do that as well.
5. Open (just) one window in your favorite browser
Really, try to stick to one window. You can also have your email up since you’ll need it for email verification. But in general, you want to keep your computer focused on this one task. Leave your school assignments, gaming console, YouTube and everything else for later. 😉
6. Or use your cell phone
You can also use your cell phone to obtain your FSA ID. Students have had good luck with this. You can use your phone’s web browser. Or download the federal government’s app MyStudentAid.
7. Get started
Navigate to the FSA ID Login page: https://studentaid.gov/fsa-id/sign-in/landing. Click the white box on the bottom: Create an Account
8. Create your login & save key
For the email, be sure to use your favorite personal email, not a school email. Type in a password you will remember. Your save key can be any number or a PIN you use frequently. Also important: Set up phone and email verification. It will be easy to reset your account if you forget anything. Last: Write this info down and keep it somewhere safe. You will be using it again and again.
9. Follow directions carefully
This process is relatively simple. It’s similar to other accounts you’ve created over the years. But it’s important to get the information exactly right. Look at your family’s tax forms and make sure to type in your name and Social Security number exactly as it has been written on the taxes. Type slowly and carefully. One typo or a misspelling can cause problems, forcing you to start over. But if all goes well, you’ll have your new FSA ID within minutes. 🙂
10. See a spinning circle?
Sometimes the government’s website gets overloaded. Or the form can get confused by information you typed in. If you see a spinning circle, try rebooting your computer and redoing the form in a different web browser. (Started with Chrome? Try Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari. This often fixes things.) If all else fails, try starting over again with a new email and password. (Not great, we know, but sometimes necessary.) Repeat the steps above, if needed.
Still having problems? There is help. Call the federal government’s FAFSA hotline at 1-800-433-3243. The staff is familiar with any number of glitches that could be holding you up. Or see the FAFSA’s contact page for other ways to get assistance.
Did you run into technical issues? Have a strategy that worked for you? Email us. Let us know about it and we’ll share your tip with others.
Kim Nauer is the founder of UnderstandingFAFSA.org and a higher education expert at The New School. Her latest questions: How does anyone read a financial aid letter? And will this all-new FAFSA in the fall really be simpler?