What is a FSA ID?
What is a FSA ID?
As a College Planner and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, dealing with the federal government and its different websites is something that I'm very accustomed to. Another thing that I've(unfortunately) become very used to is dealing with confusion on the part of students and parents who are applying to colleges. While the federal government tries to make their systems easy to use, there are sometimes so many hoops to jump through with varying acronyms that it becomes overwhelming. To make it just a little bit worse, sometimes these acronyms are very similar, which leads to even further confusion. All of these acronyms, websites, and steps lead parents and students to wonder what they need to do, what they can ignore, (and worse) what they're missing.
This leads me to our topic of discussion for the day… FSA. If you don't already know what the FSA is, that's okay! We're going to cover that and just about everything we can think of to bridge that gap and build on the knowledge you already have! Hopefully, we can create a clearer picture of FSA and how it relates to the student loan application process.
What is a FSA ID?
Suppose you've only ever heard the acronym FSA thrown around in parent or student meetings about scholarships and FAFSA. In that case, it can leave a lot of unanswered questions. In fact, if you were to just google FSA, it could quickly lead you down the wrong rabbit holes of financial information.
FSA stands for Federal Student Aid. It's used as a shorthand to represent the term FSA ID or Federal Student Aid Identification. This is essentially a separate website and login that you use to electronically sign and identify yourself for things like FAFSA, the mystudentaid app, or the National Student Loan Data System. For many parents and students, it seems very confusing that you need a different platform's login to deal with these websites; however, it is one of the federal government's extra digital protection layers for your student loans.
Do I Need a FSA ID?
A parent recently contacted me asking, "What is an FSA ID and do I really need one?". The short answer is, if you are looking into financial aid, yes. Absolutely. Getting your FSA ID is the first and necessary step for any type of need-based financial aid.
Many of us who have attended college may think, "I don't remember needing an FSA ID," and you may be correct. However, that doesn't mean that you and your child don't need your (separate) FSA IDs currently. We're no longer living in a world of the digital transition. For better or for worse, at this point, things are either online or out of date. While you may not have needed an FSA ID to digitally complete scholarship and FAFSA applications when you went to college, you do need one now.
According to studentaid.gov, there are essentially three categories of people who need an FSA ID: students, borrowers, and parents. As a student, you'll need an FSA ID to electronically sign and fill out the FAFSA form. As a borrower (student or a parent), you'll need it to be able to sign the Master Promissory Note as well as complete entrance and exit counseling and to apply for income-driven repayment. Lastly, as a parent, you may need an FSA ID if your child is going to school as a dependent student. This will allow you to input your required information as well as digitally sign the FAFSA form.
You Need Separate FSA ID's For Parents and Students
It's tempting to create and use a single FSA ID for parents and students out of ease of use and convenience. However, this is strongly recommended against and will not work while submitting the FAFSA. Only one email, phone number, and social security number can only be used ONCE for an FSA ID. Entangling your child's information and yours into one account at the start can create an enormous headache from the get-go. It's also essential that your student makes their own account. In doing so, they're familiar with their own login information. They will continue to access their account throughout their college career and thereafter.
Pro Tip: Use personal emails when creating your FSA and FAFSA. Students may not always have access to a school's email!
As a parent or borrower, you won't be able to use your student's FSA ID (unless you're both the student and the borrower) to digitally sign the FAFSA. If you attempt to do this, the studentaid.gov website and the FAFSA website warn that this will lead to hiccups and potential delays regarding student aid.
How do I Get an FSA?
So, what's your step one? To obtain an FSA ID, you should visit the studentaid.gov website. From there, you'll be prompted to either login or create an account. After clicking create an account, you'll input personal information, like your first and last name, middle initial, date of birth, and then social security number. After this, you'll create a username, input your email address and create a password. In step three, you'll have to use your personal mobile phone number (limited to a single FSA ID account). After that, you'll move on to your communication preferences, where you'll decide to receive important communication by mail or email and your preferred language.
This brings you to step five. Here you'll be promoted to come up with several "challenge questions," while it's easy to come up with some silly questions and answers, these are very important. If you should be locked out of your account because of a forgotten username or password, you'll be able to use these questions and answers to regain access to your account. You'll be prompted to confirm the information you've put in at the bottom of this page. The last step is to verify your mobile phone number or email address. This is also very important and can be used to recover your account should you forget your information.
- Access the “Create Account” page.
- Provide a unique username.
- Enter your email address.
- Provide a unique password.
- Provide your name, date of birth, and Social Security number.
- Provide your mailing address.
- Select your language preference.
- Provide your mobile phone number. Select the box if you would like to register your mobile phone to receive one-time secure codes if you forget your username or password. (You will be required to either provide your email address or to provide your mobile phone number and opt-in to messaging before you can proceed.)
- For security purposes, complete the challenge questions and answers.
- Confirm and verify your information.
- Agree to the terms and conditions.
- Verify your email address and/or mobile phone number. This verification allows you to retrieve your username or reset your password without answering your challenge questions. Also, you can use your mobile phone number or your email address as your username when logging in to U.S. Department of Education online systems.
Cox Collegiate Planners can help you navigate the FSA ID process
Creating all of these accounts can feel like a headache and, at times, be very frustrating and overwhelming. Acronyms, extra steps, and all of these rules keep your accounts safe and help keep things flowing smoothly. The best advice regarding the FSA ID and the FAFSA is to take care of it all early. The earlier you complete and obtain the ID, the easier and quicker you can apply for financial aid. If you're feeling overwhelmed or just don't know what steps to take, working with a college planner and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, like myself, can really help take some of the burdens off of your shoulders. Reach out and give me a call or send me an email to schedule an appointment. Together, we'll develop a smart, strategic, and forward-thinking plan to achieve financial success in higher education.
Until next time… this is Cox Collegiate Planners!
Melissa Anne Cox, College Funding and Student Loan Advisor, is also a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and financial coach in Dallas, Texas.