How long does it take to fill FAFSA?

The FAFSA has developed an efficient method for students who apply for aid so that the time taken for processing would be kept to a minimum. Make sure that you are well-aware of all deadlines and need to make any corrections to get access to your aid on time.

Updated by Rakshitha N on 28th February 2020

Filling the FAFSA is an important step while applying for a Federal student aid. Every student has to fill the fafsa with the information to obtain a Federal Student loan grants or a scholarship.

The filling process may seem intimidating for some students at their first time. By knowing about the information to be filled, how long it takes to fill the fafsa how the process the student gains  confidence while filling it. This article focuses on how much time a student can take to fill the FAFSA, how the process works and some tips on how you can fill it quickly.

Table of content:

How long does it take to fill out FAFSA?

To fill the FAFSA, it might take around 30 minutes to an hour which includes the collection of necessary information to be filled.

You must have all the documents ready such as tax returns, bank statements  prior to speeding up the filling process. You may also need the tax returns of the previous year but most times the information is automatically driven from the IRS data revival tool.

It is always better to fill a FAFSA as soon as it is open to have a better chance of getting more federal aid. 

How can you fill the FAFSA in less time?

Here are some tips for you to fill a FAFSA in less time,

  • Create an FSA Id before filing FAFSA- You and your parent must create an account on the Financial Student Aid with a valid email and a username so that it can be accessed during the filing of FAFSA.

  • You can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool which is a built in tool to transfer all the information of the tax return automatically to FAFSA instead of searching the documents of previous year. This saves time.

  • You must always be prepared with the school you are applying to and prioritize them accordingly, as there are chances of missing out the grants that you could be eligible for.

  • Applying to the FAFSA online could reduce a lot of paperwork and reduce time. The time estimated to fill fafsa offline can take up to 3 hours whereas the online form takes up to an hour and less with all the information collected prior.

How Time-Consuming is FAFSA?

Filling out a FAFSA could be lengthy and it depends on the method you adopt to complete the filling process. You could consume up to 4-60 minutes if you are applying online and you collected all the details and applying it online could save a lot of time. If you are a first-timer, know all the documents required for the application process and the process might take some time. 

After you submit your FAFSA, it undergoes a process of evaluation of your information. A Student Aid Report (SAR) is sent through an email or a post at an average time of 3 -14 days after applying.

SAR-Student Aid Report is an electronic document or a paper which details some basic information about your eligibility for a federal student aid. 

If you want to receive your SAR score soon, it is advised to apply for the aid and submit through an online medium. 

  • You should give details of your active email id, and sign in to FAFSA through a FSA ID to get SAR soon.

  • For those who applied online and did not sign the FAFSA with a  FSA ID, it could take up to 2 weeks to get your SAR 

  • If you didn't apply through an online medium you could get your SAR via post in 7-10 days.

  • In the given circumstances, if you apply for FAFSA without an FSA ID or email address, a hard copy of the form can stretch up to three weeks to be processed and sent to your respective SAR.

  • In some cases, you might have accidentally or intentionally provided an invalid or inactive email ID while filing the FAFSA, you will be subject to a delayed SAR.

It is advisable to create the FSA ID since it provides you with a personal identification number, which allows you to obtain your federal student aid information and lawfully attach your sign to your electronic documents.

On these terms, if you want to make any changes to the SAR Acknowledgment, you can do so only through an online medium. You may check your SAR status online if you haven’t received any response relating to your FAFSA under the time period of three weeks, starting from the date of your application.

 Worried about how to fill FAFSA ? Check the FAFSA guide.

How is FAFSA Processed?

Once you are in possession of your Student Aid Report (SAR), your preferred educational institutions will receive your application. The institutions will next evaluate your financial standing, eligibility, and requirements. Your application will also mention your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Your information will be available to all the FAFSA member educational institutions, but every institution’s financial aid department will take time evaluating your specific application, due to all the new applications approaching the institution it consumes time.

Next, the educational institution deeming you eligibility and worthy of their resources designs a financial aid for you, rooted by your academic background. 

But, Just applying for FAFSA and expecting aid won’t be enough to receive benefits from educational institutions as the institution will have limited aid to distribute everyone.This is so because the majority of the FAFSA applicants mention multiple names of institutions they would like to attend on their application.

The majority of the acceptance offers from the institutions are made before May 1 in the United States due to the regulations laid down by the Candidates Reply Date Agreement (CRDA) which is an agreement that provides students with the deadline.

Know more about the Deadline to submit FAFSA.

If your plan is to attend a particular college, contact the school’s financial aid department directly. The school will determine your eligibility and deliver a financial aid award letter to you.

When Will You Receive Your Financial Aid?

If you get selected for more than one educational institution you applied for, they offer federal student loans as a part of your financial aid package, you will need to sign your own Master Promissory Note (MPN) in order to receive your student loan in around 10 days prior to the start of your education, depending on several other factors.

If you were unable to sign your MPN, the time period taken by your federal student loan funds to reach you can stretch up to several weeks.

Read about Master Promissory Note (MNP) to know when to sign it, how to read and mnp and some advice to your aid.


In the process of applying for a FAFSA, your attentiveness and alertness plays an important role. You must stay updated with all the ongoing communication from the financial aid department, in case you may be required to provide any additional documentation or report on or before a deadline. Additionally, reach out to the educational institution(s) of your choice for more details regarding when you will be in possession of your financial aid.

The FAFSA has developed an efficient method for students who apply for federal aid so that the time taken for processing would be kept to a minimum. Make sure that you are well-aware of all deadlines and need to make any corrections to get access to your aid on time.