Completing the FAFSA

On This Page:

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)  |  A Dependent or Independent?  |  FAFSA Data Retrieval  |  If You Are Not Eligible For Data Retrieval

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Students applying for or receiving financial aid must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

WHAT’S NEW:  The 2017-2018 FAFSA application will be available to complete starting on October 1, 2016, three months earlier than in past years. Learn more about important changes to FAFSA.

Contact your school for exact deadline dates.

  • A FAFSA can be completed online at FAFSA-on-the-Web.

  • To complete your FAFSA, you will need Columbia University's School Code002707

  • To request a paper copy, call the U.S. Department of Education at 800-4FED-AID.

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A Dependent, Or An Independent?

When you file a FAFSA, the financial information you report will be used to determine if you need financial aid.


That information will be used to determine whether you receive any type of need-based federal student aid and, if you are eligible, how much federal financial aid you will receive. You’ll need to determine whose information to report on the FAFSA:

  • yours, if you’re an independent student;
  • yours and your spouse’s, if you’re an independent and married student;
  • or yours and your parents’ if you are a dependent student.


When you apply for federal student aid, your answers to the questions in Step 3 of the paper FAFSA, or in Step 2 of the electronic online FAFSA, determine whether you are considered a dependent or independent student.

Dependent students must report their parents’ income and assets on the FAFSA as well as their own. If you’re considered a dependent student, your parents are expected to contribute toward the cost of your education. Federal student aid programs are based on the concept that a dependent student’s parents have the primary responsibility for paying for their child’s education.

To determine whether you are considered “dependent” or “independent,” please see this dependency fact sheet from the Department of Education.

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Simplifying the Application Process: FAFSA Data Retrieval

March 10, 2017 Update: The IRS Data Retrieval Tool that allows students and parents to transfer tax information directly to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is currently unavailable. In the interim, if you are selected for income verification, you should:

submit form 4506T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, via mail

OR

request a transcript from the IRS online.

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If You Opt Out Or Are Not Eligible

If you opt out or are ineligible, you may need to submit to the University a federal tax return transcript. There are three methods for obtaining a federal tax return transcript:

  1. Online request with the IRS
  • On the main page under Tools, Click “Order a Tax Return or Account Transcript”
  • Click “Tax Return Transcript” in Section 1
  • Click “Order a Transcript”
  • Provide the tax filer’s SSN, DOB, Street Address, and Zip Code (these must exactly match the data provided on your tax return).
  • Click “Continue”
  • In the “Type of Transcript” field, select “Return Transcript” and appropriate year requested in the “Tax Year” field.
  • If successfully linked, tax filers can expect a paper IRS Tax Return Transcript to be mailed to the specified address within 5‐10 days.
  1. Telephone request
  • Automated attendant – 1‐800‐908‐9946
  • Live person – 1‐800‐829‐1040 – (Hold times vary and can be significant.) You may be able to request that the transcript be faxed to you rather than be mailed.
  1. Paper Request – IRS Form 4506T – must be used if you have moved since filing your taxes

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