FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the official form for applying for federal financial aid to pay for college. Many states, individual colleges, and universities also use it to make financial aid decisions.
Based on the information gathered from the application, it determines who will receive aid in the form of loans, scholarships, and grants.
How Does the FAFSA Work?
The Federal Student Aid office, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, provides more than $150 billion in federal aid to 13 million students each year.
This assistance takes the form of grants, work-study, and loans.
Grants, also known as scholarships, are intended for students with “exceptional financial need” and do not have to be repaid.
Pell Grants are the most common federal education grants today.
Work-study programs at participating colleges and universities provide paid part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students.
Loans, unlike grants or scholarships, must be repaid at some point. However, when compared to private lenders, federal loans typically have lower interest rates and more favorable repayment terms.
There are several types of federal loans for higher education, known as Stafford Loans. Direct subsidized loans have the best terms and are only available to families in need. Families can get direct unsubsidized loans regardless of their financial situation. Direct PLUS loans are available to parents and graduate or professional students regardless of financial need, but borrowers must have an acceptable credit history.
The FAFSA, which is administered by the Federal Student Aid Office, is the entry point for all of these types of aid.
The questions on it are designed to assess the student’s financial need as well as their Expected Family Contribution (EFC). According to federal regulations, that is the amount of money that the student and parents are expected to be able to pay out of pocket each year for the student’s college costs. Overall, that data is used by the federal government, state assistance programs, the colleges the student is applying to, and other scholarship sources to determine how much and what types of aid the family is eligible for.
The term “student aid index” (SAI) will replace EFC on all FAFSA forms beginning in July 2023, thanks to the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act. The change attempts to clarify what this figure actually is: a student aid eligibility index, not a reflection of what a family can or will pay for post-secondary expenses. It is also planned to make changes to how the SAI is calculated.
Students can expect to receive a financial aid offer shortly after being accepted by a college. Financial assistance may include a combination of grants, work-study, and loans. These offers may differ from one college to the next.
Who is Eligible for FAFSA?
Individuals who are US citizens, nationals, or legal permanent residents, or who have an Arrival-Departure Record from US Citizenship and Immigration Services with specific designations, such as refugees, are eligible to apply for federal student aid. To qualify, students must be enrolled in a Title IV-eligible program, which means they can receive federal financial aid.
The FAFSA requests information on income, assets, and demographic factors such as household size and the number of children attending college at the same time. This information is used to determine eligibility for federal student aid by calculating the expected family contribution. For example, if the EFC is zero, the student will almost certainly be eligible for the maximum Pell Grant – a federal award based on financial need.
How to Fill Out the FAFSA
The FAFSA is well-known for its complexities. It requires students to answer a series of questions, which may take some time to complete. Importantly, families must submit a new FAFSA every year in order to keep their financial aid or to apply again if they did not receive any aid the first time they applied.
The questions range from basic identifying information for the student and their parents (name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, and so on) to a thorough examination of their finances.
Furthermore, students and parents must provide information on their income and assets, such as bank accounts, investments, real estate (except the family home), and any businesses they own (excluding family farms and small businesses). Both parents and students have FAFSA accounts and must fill out the FAFSA.
The family’s tax returns will provide much of this information. In many cases, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) allows you to download that data directly to the FAFSA.
Bank, brokerage, and mutual fund statements will be useful in answering the remaining financial questions. The office of Federal Student Aid makes a copy of the printed FAFSA form available online for a preview of the FAFSA’s questions.
(It should be noted that, while it is possible to complete and submit a paper FAFSA form, the online version can be faster and more efficient unless you do not have access to a computer or the internet.)
What Documents Do I Need to File the FAFSA?
It collects personal and financial information from dependent students and their parents and sends it to the schools where the student has applied.
The first step is to create an FSA ID on the Federal Student Aid website. This ID allows you to apply for federal financial aid, acts as a legal signature, and allows you to easily add or change information on your application later. Each parent and student must apply for their own FSA ID.
You will also need the federal school code for each school to which you intend to apply. To find the code for any school, use the Federal School Code Search tool.
Once you’ve obtained all necessary FSA IDs and federal school codes, you’ll need the following information to complete the FAFSA smoothly:
- Student Social Security number
- Parent(s) Social Security numbers
If you are a dependent student
- Student driver’s license number
- Student Alien Registration Number (if you are not a US citizen)
- Federal tax information (via W2 forms or tax returns) for the student, student’s spouse, and, if applicable, student’s parents
- Untaxed income records, such as retirement plan withdrawals
- Other financial assets, such as savings or investments
Application for FAFSA
One of the most important things you’ll do when applying for FAFSA is create an FSA ID. Your FSA ID serves as a legal signature and provides you with access to the Federal Student Aid online system.
An FSA ID is also required if you want to check the status of your online application or make changes to an existing FAFSA® application.
How to Login to FASFA
Go to fafsa.gov and click on the “Log In” button at the top of the page to access your account. To log in, you’ll need your FSA ID. If you do not already have an FSA ID, you can obtain one on the same page.
You’ll be able to access your information and make any necessary changes once you’ve logged in. This portal also allows you to check the status of your application and see how much money you’ve been approved for.
How to Create Your FSA ID
When creating an FSA ID, you must provide the following information:
- Your full name
- Your social security number
- Your birth date
- A distinct and memorable username
- Your password
- Answers to difficult questions
While having a mobile phone number and an email address is not required, it is highly recommended. When attempting to recover a lost FSA ID or password, email and phone numbers provide additional assistance.
Remember that each email address and/or mobile phone number can only be associated with one FSA ID.
Why do you need the FSA ID?
Making an FSA ID confirms your identity to the FSA and the federal government. You can easily sign the FAFSA with your unique ID after verifying your identity. This is a required component of your FAFSA application and will be requested several times throughout the financial aid process.
Remember that your FSA ID is not required to complete your FAFSA application. However, the ability to digitally sign your ID allows the FAFSA to process quickly.
Furthermore, the only way to change or correct any information on your FAFSA application or pre-fill an FAFSA form with information from the previous year is to use your FSA ID.
FAFSA student loan – How do I apply for a federal student loan?
Fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form before applying for federal student aid. Your college or career school will send you a financial aid offer based on the results of the FAFSA form, which may include a federal student loan (s). Your school will explain how to accept all or a portion of the available financial assistance.
FAFSA login with parent
You can login to using this website https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa
The “save key” is the key to completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form with your parent when you are not together. The save key is a short, temporary password that you can give someone to work on your FAFSA form.
This is how it works:
- On the “Login” page, you can begin an FAFSA form with your account username and password (FSA ID), or your parent can begin it with your name, Social Security number, and date of birth by selecting the “I am the parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Asserted State” option.
- Anyone who begins the FAFSA form will be asked to create a save key. When the first person has finished their part, save the FAFSA form and exit it.
- Give the save key to the other person. Then, using the save key, that person can access the partially completed FAFSA form and complete his or her part. A parent can access your (the student’s) account by entering your (the student’s) identifiers on the “Login” screen, and they will never need to use your account username and password.
- When everyone has completed their sections of the FAFSA form, click “Submit My FAFSA Now” at the bottom of the “Signature Status” page. You are not finished until you reach the “Confirmation” page, which you should read and save for future reference.
- If your parent has another child in school, a link on the “Confirmation” page allows them to begin a new FAFSA form for that child, transferring much of their information and saving time.
It is critical that you and your parent create and use separate account usernames and passwords. Your FSA ID is legally binding and should not be shared. Allowing someone else to create your account username and password is not permitted and may cause complications and delays with your financial aid. Produce your own FSA ID.
Should I file the FAFSA even if I don’t think I’ll qualify for financial aid?
Yes. Don’t put off filling out the FAFSA because you believe you won’t qualify. There is no upper income limit for financial aid. Furthermore, some schools use the FAFSA to award scholarships.
Filling it out will also protect you if your financial situation changes. If a parent loses their job, for example, you can talk to the financial aid office at your college about adjusting your financial aid package.
However, you will not be eligible for federal aid if you never completed the FAFSA in the first place.
Some common FAFSA misconceptions lead students to believe they are ineligible for financial aid. Don’t let these misconceptions prevent you from receiving grants or scholarships.
FAFSA for international students
International students are not eligible for federal aid in the United States, such as Stafford Loans or Plus Loans.
If you are an international student coming to the United States to study, you should check with the United States embassy in your home country.
FAFSA Calculator – Financial Aid Calculator
Financial aid is awarded based on a student’s financial need, which is calculated as the difference between the college’s Cost of Attendance (COA) and the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
Tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, equipment, transportation to and from college, and miscellaneous expenses are all factored into the COA.
The EFC is determined by the student’s and parents’ income and assets, family size, number of children enrolled in college, and other demographic factors.
This federal EFC is calculated using data from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
In addition to government aid, most colleges use the federal EFC to award their own financial aid funds. A supplemental form known as the CSS PROFILE is used by fewer than 200 colleges to calculate an institutional EFC. These “PROFILE” colleges continue to award federal and state aid using the federal EFC.
By answering a subset of the FAFSA questions, you can estimate your child’s EFC before completing the FAFSA. A student with a lower EFC or higher COA will typically be eligible for more financial aid. You can use the calculator to see how changes in income and assets affect your eligibility for need-based financial aid.
What Is the FAFSA Income Limit?
In short, there is no income limit for FAFSA eligibility. Instead, factors such as year of enrollment and family size are taken into account, in addition to demonstrating financial need.
The Federal Student Aid Information Center is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays.
What is the FAFSA?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a free online application that you must complete in order to be considered for federal financial aid. It is also used by many states and colleges to award state and institutional financial aid.
The FAFSA is completed online via the Federal Student Aid website or mobile app. To access and sign the FAFSA, you must first create an FSA ID.
If you are a dependent student, your parents will also require FSA IDs.
What should I do if I miss the deadline?
Contact the financial aid office if you miss your college’s FAFSA deadline. Some states and colleges provide financial assistance to latecomers.
You will have access to the federal FAFSA until the end of the school year. Fill out the FAFSA for the following year if you do not apply for that school year.
What is the Student Aid Report (SAR)?
After completing the FAFSA, you will receive the Student Aid Report (SAR). It summarizes all of your responses on the FAFSA application.
Examine the SAR to ensure that all of your information is correct, and report any errors to the FSA. If everything appears to be in order, simply keep the SAR for your personal records.
What information do I need to apply for it?
Personal and financial information is requested on the FAFSA. Fill in your contact information as well as your Social Security number or resident ID. You can also choose up to ten colleges to receive your FAFSA data.
In addition, you or your parents will provide information from the previous year’s tax return. In addition to your gross income, the form requests your bank account balance, investments, and recurring expenses.
Can I use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import tax information?
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) is available for the FAFSA 2021-2022. You can use it to directly import data from the IRS website into the FAFSA.
Do I need to submit the FAFSA every year?
Yes, you must file the FAFSA each year to remain eligible for federal student aid. After completing the initial FAFSA, you can submit a renewal FAFSA in subsequent years. The website will automatically fill in the majority of your previous year’s information.
All you have to do now is double-check that everything is still correct. If you need to make significant changes, you can also start from the beginning.
Can I edit the FAFSA after I submit it?
Yes, you can make changes to the FAFSA after it has been submitted.
In fact, you’re required to do so if your dependency status, the number of family members, or the number of college students in your household changes.
You can also correct any errors you made while filling out the form. To make FAFSA corrections, log in to your account and select “Make FAFSA Corrections.” Enter your FSA ID, make any necessary changes, and then click submit.
What should I do if my (or my parents’) income changes?
If your family’s income changes dramatically (for example, a parent loses their job), contact your school’s financial aid office. Your new circumstances may be accommodated by the college. However, additional assistance is not guaranteed.
The government calculates your EFC using the most up-to-date information available at the time. If that information is no longer correct, you must inform your school of the changes.
What are the different types of financial aid?
Financial aid packages include a combination of grants, scholarships, student loans, and work-study opportunities. Grants and scholarships, for the most part, do not require repayment. You will be required to repay student loans — with interest.
Students with a certain level of financial need are eligible for the federal work-study program.
It enables you to work on campus part-time and earn money each semester. If you want to be considered for work-study, make sure to indicate that on your FAFSA.
How much financial aid will I get?
The amount of financial aid you will receive is largely determined by the college or graduate school you attend. Some colleges even meet all accepted students’ full financial need.
Other colleges may not be able to meet your entire financial need. If you still want to attend that school, you’ll need to find alternative funding, such as private student loans.
When do I get my financial aid package?
Your financial aid award is determined by the financial aid offices at your college.
Many regular decision colleges make admissions decisions in March or April of your senior year. Financial aid packages are frequently delivered at the same time or shortly after.
Some schools with rolling admissions send out decisions and financial aid packages later in the spring or summer. However, before selecting a college, you should be able to view and compare financial aid packages.
Many families begin their search for college financial aid by completing the FAFSA. It aids in determining eligibility for grants, work-study programs, and loans. Fill it out as soon as you can because their aid may be limited to first-come, first-served.