Before you can access financial aid to pay for college, you need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). And unless you’re sending the FAFSA via snail mail, you need a Federal Student Aid identification (FSA ID) to sign the FAFSA.
Here’s what you need to know about getting an FSA ID and why it’s important:
Your FSA ID is made up of a username and password that lets you log into your accounts and electronically sign documents, while removing all personally identifiable information.
Because the FSA ID doesn’t require you to provide sensitive information each time you sign in, it offers a secure way of accessing and updating your account. It also serves as your secure online signature on legally binding documents, such as the FAFSA and Master Promissory Note for your student loans.
Since the FSA ID is unique to each individual accessing the site, students and parents must have their own IDs. It’s linked to your individual email, phone number and Social Security number, so you can’t share an FSA ID with a family member.
If you’re applying for financial aid as an independent student, your parents might not need an FSA ID. But if you’re a dependent, both you and your parents will need this secure login to sign the FAFSA. (See our parents’ guide to FAFSA for details.)
Who can get an FSA ID?
Whether you’re a borrower, the parent or guardian of a student or you are the student, you’ll need to create your own FSA ID account in order to access federal student aid tasks that you’ll need to complete. Each individual account will be given access to the U.S. Department of Education systems.
If you are a parent or guardian who set up an account of your own back when you were a student, you won’t have to create a new FSA ID. In fact, only one FSA ID is allowed per Social Security number.
It only takes a couple of minutes to create your FSA ID. To get started, you’ll need to visit the FSA website and take the following steps:
- Go to the create an account page where you’ll find information on how you can use your account and what details you’ll need to provide.
- Next, enter your Social Security number, date of birth and full name.
- On the following page, you’ll create your username and password. Your password will need to have at least eight characters and include numbers, uppercase letters and lowercase letters.
- You’ll then need to provide your full address (street address, city, state and ZIP code) as well as enter your phone number and an alternative number (this last part is optional).
- Once you’ve provided your contact information, on the next page of the application, you’ll specify how you want to receive communications (by email or by postal mail) and set your language preference.
- Create several “challenge questions and answers.” Make sure to record your answers so you don’t forget them in the future. Otherwise, you might have trouble resetting your password.
- Lastly, review your profile information and accept the terms and conditions. Verify your email address or phone number, and your FSA ID will then be created.
Wait for FSA ID verification
While you can use your FSA ID to sign your FAFSA immediately, you’ll need to wait one to three days before you can use it to log into other accounts. That’s because it takes the Social Security Administration (SSA) a few days to match your information. You will receive an email confirmation once your account has been verified.
If you want to find out sooner, you can check your SSA match status via the “Manage my FSA ID” tab on the FSA ID site. After signing in, look for “SSA Verification,” where you can see if your status is “Matched,” “Not Matched” or “Pending.”
If you see a mismatch, sign into your account and double-check that you’ve entered your Social Security number and other personal information correctly.
Save your FSA ID in a secure place
Since you need your FSA ID to manage your accounts, it’s critical to save your username and password. Rather than saving it on your computer, which could be hacked, consider writing it down on a piece of paper and storing it in a safe place. Alternatively, you could use a secure password-storing software, such as LastPass or 1Password.
As long as you hang on to your FSA ID, you should have no trouble signing into your accounts and managing your federal financial aid and student loans. Plus, you’ll be all set when it comes time to renew the FAFSA and ensure you have financial aid throughout all four years of college.
Along with signing the FAFSA, you can use your FSA ID to log into federal financial aid websites such as:
- myStudentAid mobile app
- National Student Loan Data System
- Agreement to Serve website
All of these sites are important for managing financial aid and student loans, whether you’re applying for financial aid for the first time or completing student loan exit counseling as you approach graduation.
New and incoming undergraduates, for instance, can use their FSA ID to sign their FAFSA and FAFSA renewal forms. And graduates and student loan borrowers can use their FSA ID for student loans, whether they want to:
While the process of creating an FSA ID is straightforward, you might run into issues. Should you need help, you can contact the FSA the following ways:
If you have an FSA PIN, which is what students used prior to May 10, 2015, you may experience some problems. In this case, you have the option of connecting your PIN to your FSA ID during the setup process. If you go this route, your FSA ID will be up and running immediately, and you won’t have to wait the typical one to three days for SSA verification.
Another potential issue could be if you need to change your username or password. In this situation, you can go to the “Edit My FSA ID” tab on the login page.
What if you forget your FSA ID password?
In the event that you lose or forget your FSA ID username or password, the FSA can help you retrieve that information:
You can use those links above to retrieve that information or contact FSA for help or email, call or live chat with a representative.
Note that if you have an old FSA “PIN” from before May 2015 — when the system was changed to add more security — then you’ll need to get a new FSA ID if you haven’t done so already .
Can I file my FAFSA online without an FSA ID?
Yes — while having an FSA ID can streamline your federal financial aid process, you do not need one to file your FAFSA. In order to file the form without an ID, you can select “submit without signatures” during the submission process, though you will then need to send a signed version of the form or a signature page via mail. If you want to view or change any of your FAFSA information online, however, you will need an FSA ID.
For more details on how the FAFSA works, check out our FAFSA guide here.
Can I file a paper FAFSA?
Aside from applying online, you can also file a paper FAFSA and mail it in. If you plan to file a paper FAFSA, you do not need to have an FSA ID.