The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA, is the first step toward receiving federal student loans and grants. The FAFSA must be submitted by a certain date in order for the applicant to qualify for federal aid for each school year. In addition to the federal FAFSA deadline, there may be other deadlines you need to know, such as those for state-run financial aid programs or financial aid offered by your particular college.

With that in mind, here's what you need to know about the FAFSA deadlines for the 2019-2020 school year and how to get your FAFSA in as soon as possible.

The 2019-2020 FAFSA deadlines

Here's the short (and incomplete) answer: The 2019-20 FAFSA must be submitted by midnight Central Time on June 30, 2020.

However, this is the federal deadline. Many states have their own deadlines, and each college may have its own deadline as well. For example, if you live in California, the deadline for many state financial aid programs was March 2, 2019. In Florida, the FAFSA must be processed by May 15, 2019. You can read the rest of the state deadlines in this document from the U.S. Department of Education.

It's also a good idea to check on your college's financial aid website to find out the school-specific FAFSA deadline.

To be perfectly clear, even if you've missed your state's or college's deadline, it's still important to fill out the FAFSA if you're planning to attend college during the 2019-2020 school year. You may miss out on state- and college-run financial aid programs, but as long as you meet the federal deadline of June 30, 2020, which shouldn't be an issue, you can qualify for federal student aid, such as student loans and federal grants.

Finally, for future reference, the FAFSA for each school year is generally made available on Oct. 1 of the previous calendar year. So the 2020-2021 FAFSA can be expected to be available on Oct. 1, 2019, and it's a smart idea to get it in as soon as possible.

How to complete your FAFSA

If you need to complete the FAFSA, it's a smart idea to get it done as soon as possible. Even if your state's or school's deadline hasn't passed, there are some student aid programs that award funds on a first-come basis, so it's best not to wait. With that in mind, here are the steps to filling out the FAFSA for the 2019-2020 school year.

First, if you haven't done so already, you need to create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) username and password. You can do this at If you're a dependent student, your parent will need to create a Federal Student Aid ID of their own.

Next, it's time to fill in the FAFSA form. It's not exactly a quick and easy form to fill out, but it takes most people less than an hour. And when you complete a renewal FAFSA next year, you expect that to be much quicker. You can expedite the process by gathering some documentation ahead of time, such as your recent tax returns, a bank statement, and your Social Security number if you don't already know it.

After you've filled out and submitted the FAFSA, you can expect to receive your Student Aid Report, or SAR, in three to five days, so long as you completed the FAFSA online, used your FSA ID to sign it electronically, and provided a valid email address. If you use the paper FAFSA, if you don't use an FSA ID to sign it, or if you don't provide an email address, it can take significantly longer.