FAFSA Walkthrough – GradPlan

The 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), is now open. Learn more here.


FAFSA Walkthrough

A step-by-step guide to help you complete the FAFSA accurately

Get Money for College

College can be expensive to attend. Fortunately, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows US Citizens and eligible noncitizens to apply for money to help pay for college and some job training programs.

The Basics

For fall enrollment 2024-25, the window to apply for FAFSA opens in December the year before you plan to enroll. In other words, if you plan to enroll in college in Fall 2024, then you should complete your FAFSA in December 2023. Here are some other things to know:

  • FAFSA is now branded as Better FAFSA, Better Futures. The 2024-25 applications open December 31st, 2023.
  • There is no universal deadline, but since most colleges provide aid on a first-come, first-served basis you should submit your FAFSA application as soon as possible. It is highly encouraged that you check in with your college about any specific FAFSA deadlines.
  • You will need to complete a FAFSA each year you are enrolled. After your first year of college, you will have to renew your FAFSA which makes the process easier.
  • It might seem like a lot to learn, but this series of videos will walk you through the steps for applying for the FAFSA and provide all the remaining need-to-know details about the process.
  • The application may return to opening in October for following years.

Step 01: Learn about the New FAFSA

Here are 6 key changes to the 2024-2025 FAFSA Application

Step 02: Set Up FSA IDs

Get ahead and start developing a game plan to pay for college

Step 03: Fill Out the FAFSA Form

Select the video to watch based on your status

Dependent Status

If you’re a dependent student, you will report your and your parents’ information.

Independent Status

If you’re an independent student, you will report your own information (and, if you’re married, your spouse’s).

Need additional help?

If you are unsure or have questions, make sure to check in your with advisor for extra support.

For Chicago-based students: the Illinois Student Assistance Corps is a talented group of recent college graduates who have been trained on supporting students across Illinois through financial aid applications and FAFSA verification.

Recommended Resources


Financial Aid

"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

Malcolm X, human rights activist