The U.S. Department of Education recommends that students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online, as it is the quickest way to apply. The FAFSA website states an estimated 3 to 5 days to process applications, as opposed to 7 to 10 days when submitting by mail.
Personal information relating to income, assets and tax filings must be gathered to determine dependency status and expected family contributions, as explained on the FAFSA website. If filing as a dependent student, parental or guardian information needs to be disclosed in order to determine eligibility for receiving federal funds.
Students are required to submit a new FAFSA for each new school year, notes the Office of Federal Student Aid. Once an account has been created, information from the previous year's application is retained, making it easier to verify or update the status of the student's financial needs.