All You Need to Know About the FSA ID
By Joe Messinger, CFP®
September 12, 2018
We highly recommend every college student complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA every year. High school seniors will complete the form for the first time starting in October of their senior year. (The online form goes live on October 1st every year.) The very first step you need to complete, before starting the FAFSA, is obtaining an FSA ID. What is it and what do you need to know about it?
What is the FSA ID?
FSA ID stands for Federal Student Aid ID and is used by the U.S. Department of Education as your username and password combination. It provides a secure way to complete the FAFSA and access the form later. It also provides access to these websites: nslds.ed.gov, studentloans.gov, and studentaid.gov.
May seem like a simple thing, but with this ID you can sign forms electronically, access personal records, and make binding legal obligations (like federal student loans). So, this ID is more than just access to a website.
The security of your FSA ID is very important. Someone having access to your ID could sign documents like loan paperwork in your name. Having your FSA ID is like having your written signature, so keep that information safe.
After graduation, you will still need your FSA ID.
After a student completes their undergrad degree, they still may need the FSA ID. It gives them access to (courtesy Student Loan Hero):
- Exit counseling
- Retrieving student loan info, such as lender information and total balance
- Applying for Direct Consolidation Loan
- Applying for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan.
Who needs an FSA ID?
Although (in theory) the student is the one completing the FAFSA, a parent will still need to provide some financial information and sign the form electronically if the student is considered a dependent (which most undergrad students are). As a result, both the student AND one of the parents need an FSA ID.
How do you get one?
The FSA ID is created on a separate website from the FAFSA form itself. Click here to go to the site.
Side note, the FSA ID instructions point out that you are not allowed to create a FSA ID for someone else, even a family member. Parents, you should not create one for your student. They need to do it on their own. However, we know parents often take the lead on completing the FAFSA and all that that entails. The best idea is to sit down with your student to create FSA IDs (and later fill out the FAFSA) together. Great learning moment for how all these “grown up” tasks work.
Let’s get started.
To get started creating an FSA ID, simply fill in an email address. Next, create a unique username. The username must be from 6 to 30 characters long and can be any combination of numbers and/or uppercase or lowercase letters. Don’t use any personal identifiers. Don’t use anything you’ve used before in other places. Be sure to write it down. A good idea is to keep this information written down in a good old fashioned paper file folder. You’ll need this info every year for the next four years. Knowing where to find it will save some sanity!
Next, create a password. The password must be between 8 and 30 characters long. You can use any of combination of the following. You must choose three of the four criteria.
- Uppercase letters
- Lowercase letters
- Non-alphanumeric special characters ! @ # $ & * ( ) [ ] _ – . ?
As with all passwords, it is case-sensitive. Again, no personal identifiers. No password you have used elsewhere.
Remember, this username and password combination gains access to your personal financial information so make it as hard as possible on those hackers! The password will have to be changed every 18 months. (The fine detail on what is needed in a username or password can be found by clicking the little “?” on the FSA ID creation page.)
Enter your name, date of birth, Social Security number, contact information, and challenge questions and answers.
If you have a Federal Student Aid PIN, you can link your FSA ID to the PIN. However, the PIN was discontinued and replaced by the current FSA ID system in 2015 so you probably don’t have a PIN and won’t be getting one.
Review your information. Read and accept the terms and conditions. Next, you’ll receive an email at the address you provided so you can confirm your identity, and you’re done!
You can use your FSA ID to sign a FAFSA right away. However, it takes the Social Security Administration one to three days to verify your information. You can’t log in with the FSA ID to any of the websites listed above including the FAFSA until you are verified.
If you receive an email saying your Social Security information does not match, double check that your Social Security number and date of birth you entered match your SSN card. (Another side note, be sure to use the student’s FSA ID when completing the FAFSA. You may run into another SSN match error if you entered a parent’s FSA ID when you created the form.)
Not sure if you have been verified? Visit this website and choose the “manage my FSA ID” tab. After logging in, you’ll see a “SSA Verification” box that will say either “Matched,” “Not Matched,” or “Pending.”
Check this item off your “to do” list.
Our advice is to get the FSA ID taken care of now. You don’t have to wait until the FAFSA is live on October 1st to get one. Write down and save your information. Do not share it with others. You’ll be good to go!