Education is an essential step in some people’s journey in life. This journey can be facilitated by getting a loan, grant, or scholarship from the federal government, states, colleges, or other organizations. FAFSA is the acronym for the Free Application for Student Aid. The completion and submission of this application are required for you to be considered for financial aid such as grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and federal student loans.
If money is a barrier to continuing your education, you should learn about FAFSA and how to fill out the form to take advantage of this opportunity. In this article, we will talk about everything about the FAFSA, from planning early to reviewing your aid offers to getting and repaying your loan.
What is FAFSA?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form that must be filled out to apply for government student aid such as federal grants, work-study programs, and loans. Through the FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education gives more than $120 billion each year to more than 13 million students in the form of scholarships, work-study jobs, and low-interest loans.
Additionally, many states and colleges use the information you provide on the FAFSA to determine whether or not you are eligible for state and school aid. Also, some private financial aid providers may look at the information you give on the FAFSA to decide whether or not they can help you.
You should still take the time to fill out the FAFSA application, even if you believe that you earn too much money to qualify for financial assistance. According to a poll done by Discover Loans, only 45 percent of parents filled out their FAFSA, even though 74 percent of the same group was worried about whether or not they would have enough money to help their kids pay for college.
You shouldn’t automatically assume that you won’t qualify for financial aid from the federal government or your institution if there is financial aid available. Start by filling out the FAFSA and, if the school you might want to go to requires it, the CSS Profile. This will tell you what kinds of financial aid packages are available to you.
Who is eligible for the FAFSA program?
Anyone wanting to attend college in the next academic year should complete the FAFSA.
This is why:
Students who do not fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year leave unclaimed federal aid worth millions or perhaps billions of dollars on the table. If you don’t file your taxes, you won’t be able to get the vast majority of the financial assistance that is available.
Your household doesn’t need to have a low income to be considered for assistance. Even if your family’s yearly income exceeds $200,000, you can qualify for financial aid.
When you fill out a FAFSA, you are immediately considered for a government loan with a competitive interest rate. Compared to many private student loans, the monthly payment on these loans is easier to handle.
For most work-study programs, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Most merit-based scholarship programs need you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before they can decide how much to give you.
To summarize, to be qualified for federal student assistance, you must:
- show financial need (for the vast majority of programs);
- possess U.S. citizenship or be an eligible non-citizen;
- Students from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau are exempt from this requirement.
- be enrolled or approved for enrollment as a regular student in a degree or certificate program that qualifies;
- keep up a respectable academic pace in college or a vocational program;
- on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form, certify that you are not in default on a federal student loan, do not owe money on a federal student grant, and will use federal student assistance solely for educational purposes; and
- having a high school diploma or the state-recognized equivalent; finishing high school in a homeschool setting permitted by state law; Enrolling in an eligible career pathway program and satisfying one of the “ability-to-benefit” alternatives are all ways to demonstrate your eligibility for a college or career school education.
Also, you usually can’t get a Federal Pell Grant or a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) after you get your first professional degree or a bachelor’s degree.
In addition to the broad requirements mentioned above, certain federal student assistance programs have their qualifying requirements. For further details about a specific program, get in touch with the financial assistance office at your college or professional school.
Different types of FAFSA
There are different kinds of FAFSA loans that you have to be familiar with to better apply for FAFSA.
A grant is a kind of financial assistance that doesn’t need to be paid back (unless you obtain a TEACH Grant and don’t fulfill your service requirement, for instance, or you withdraw from school and must pay a refund). There are several federal grants accessible, including:
- Grants for Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH)
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG),
- and the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
To assist students in paying for college or career school, many nonprofit and private organizations offer scholarships. This free money, which is sometimes given out for good grades, talent, or interest in a certain field of study, can help you pay for school.
You may work part-time to pay for education under the federal work-study program. You’ll make at least the federal minimum wage in effect. However, depending on the kind of job you perform and the qualifications needed for the position, you could make more money. Your overall work-study award is based on the timing of your application, your degree of financial need, and the funding level of your institution.
A loan is a sum of money that you must repay with interest. If you submit a financial assistance application, your school may include loans in its financial aid package. You are borrowing money to attend a college or professional school when you take out a student loan. You are obligated to pay back the loan with accrued interest. To successfully repay your loan, it’s crucial to be aware of your available repayment options.
Military Family Assistance
Being in the military, being the spouse of a veteran, or being the child of a veteran entitles you to additional aid eligibility or special aid programs.
Help with International Studies
Whether you are studying abroad or earning your degree from an overseas institution, federal student assistance may be available for attending a university outside of the United States.
How do I apply for the FAFSA?
You have to take six steps to apply for the FAFSA:
- Getting prepared
- Completing your FAFSA form
- Reviewing the student aid report
- In Response to the Aid Report
- Receiving aid
- Renewing your FAFSA form
How do I create an FSA ID?
You should establish an account before beginning the FAFSA form. You may access specific information online and electronically sign your FAFSA® form and promissory notes using your account login and password, known as your FSA ID. While you may acquire your FSA ID when you fill out the FAFSA form online, acquiring it beforehand and utilizing it to do so reduces mistakes and delays. Learn how to get an FSA ID and what to do if you forget it.
Information about you, including your name, date of birth, address, and other personal details, is requested in the FAFSA questionnaire. You may need the following details or papers while you complete the FAFSA application, depending on your specific situation (for example, if you are a U.S. citizen or what tax form you used):
- Your social security number, which must be entered correctly on the FAFSA form.
- If you are a dependent student, include your parents’ Social Security numbers.
- If you have a driver’s license, please provide it.
- If you are a foreign national, your Alien Registration number
- IRS W-2 information for you (and your spouse, if you’re married), your parents (if you’re a dependent student), and any other federal tax information, records, or returns:
- IRS Form 1040-NR or IRS Form 1040-F, Foreign Tax Return
- Return of Taxes for the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands
- If you are a dependent student, you must also provide your parents with records of your untaxed income, including any child support payments you’ve made, interest income, and veterans’ non-education benefits.
- financial data, including cash on hand, checking and savings account balances, investments in stocks, bonds, and real estate (excluding the primary residence); and if you are a dependent student, business and farm assets for both you and your parents.
Use these free resources if you need assistance completing the FAFSA form:
Selecting the white question mark symbol next to a FAFSA question in the online form will provide a “tooltip” with instructions on how to respond to that question.
Visit the “FAFSA Help” page to examine popular FAFSA topics, read FAQs, look for additional details, or choose “Contact Us.”
You may email us with your inquiry after clicking “Contact Us,” or, during business hours, you can chat (in English or Spanish) with live technical support personnel.
For the next academic year, the FAFSA form becomes accessible on October 1. To fulfill the FAFSA federal, state, and school deadlines, we strongly advise that you complete it as soon as possible on or after October 1.
Choose “Start Here” if you are beginning the application for the first time on fafsa.gov. Your social security number and name must match those on your card. Use this advice to prevent receiving a warning that the Social Security Administration’s data doesn’t match yours (or your FSA ID account).
It’s easy to overlook the three Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) due dates when you’re preoccupied with academics, extracurricular activities, and social life. We understand.
You should be aware of the following FAFSA deadlines, though:
- The college deadline
- The state deadline
- The federal deadline
We’re here to remind you of these important obligations as well as to warn you about the consequences of failing to keep them.
The first deadline comes from the college. Spoiler alert! Most of the time, it’s early. Deadlines for college are different at each school, but they usually come well before the start of the school year. If you are applying to more than one college, find out when the FAFSA® deadline is for each school and apply early.
There are priority deadlines for many FAFSA due dates for colleges. This means that you need to send in your FAFSA form by that date if you want to get the most money from the college. On their financial aid pages, many colleges make this date very clear. Call the school’s financial aid office if you can’t find it.
Don’t worry about getting the information you need to fill out the FAFSA form before the deadline. You can fill out the FAFSA form for 2023–2024 starting on October 1, 2022. You’ll need your tax information from 2021.
I thought it couldn’t get any better. The Oct. 1 launch date is the same as the deadline for many college applications, so we recommend that you send in your applications for both admission and federal aid at the same time. Don’t worry if you don’t know where you want to apply yet. The FAFSA form can still be sent in. Just list all the schools you’re thinking about, even if you’re not sure if you’ll apply. You can add or remove schools from your FAFSA form at any time.
The second date is set by the state where you live. Check the deadline for your state. Some states have hard deadlines, while others suggest dates to make sure you get priority for college money.
Since many states don’t have a lot of money, their FAFSA deadlines may be quite early. If “as soon as possible after October 1” is the deadline in your state, you should send in your FAFSA form as soon as possible.
This last deadline comes from us, the U.S. Department of Education, also known as the FAFSA folks. Our only deadline is June 30 of each year, when the FAFSA form for that school year is no longer available.
This means that the 2023–24 FAFSA form will no longer be available on StudentAid.gov on June 30, 2024, when the 2023–24 school year ends. Yes, you can technically spend a whole year at college before you can fill out the FAFSA form. But states and colleges have earlier deadlines that make it a bad idea to wait.
FAFSA student loans
The Direct Subsidized Loan and Direct Unsubsidized Loan programs are federal student loans made available by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to assist deserving students in paying for their higher education at a four-year institution, a community college, or a trade, career, or technical school. (Direct Stafford Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans are not official loan titles; you may see them called Stafford Loans or Direct Stafford Loans.)
What types of federal student loans are available?
There are two types of student loans:
- subsidized loan
- unsubsidized loans.
How do I get a federal student loan?
You must first fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form to apply for a direct loan. Your school will utilize the data from your FAFSA form to calculate the amount of financial assistance you are qualified for. The majority of the time, direct loans are a component of your financial assistance package.
FAFSA loan forgiveness
Although they are used differently, the phrases “discharge,” “cancellation, and “forgiveness” all refer to essentially the same thing. It is often referred to as “loan forgiveness” or “loan cancellation” if you are no longer obligated to make loan payments as a result of your employment. Discharge is the term used when you are no longer obligated to make loan payments because of another event, such as a complete and permanent incapacity or the closure of the institution from whom you borrowed the money.
If you believe you qualify for loan forgiveness, get in touch with your loan servicer. If you have a Perkins loan, get in touch with the institution that issued it or the loan servicer the institution has chosen.