It’s no secret that college tuition in the US is expensive. However, most students are able to afford college through financial aid programs, such as scholarships, grants, loans, and income from work-study jobs. In this article, we’ll teach you how to apply for FAFSA to get access to federal financial aid programs.
Applying for FAFSA is a key step in the college application process, and you can use funds from FAFSA for university, college, career school, or graduate school education. We’ll cover how to apply for financial aid using FAFSA and when FAFSA is due in this article.
What Is FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. FAFSA is how prospective college students apply for federal financial aid programs from the US Department of Education. Through FAFSA, you’ll learn about your eligibility for different types of financial aid awards depending on your financial situation and your expected family contribution.
How Does FAFSA Work?
FAFSA works in a few simple steps. First, go to the FAFSA website and fill out the FAFSA form online for free. If you are a dependent undergraduate student, you’ll need information from your custodial parent or parents. You and any schools you apply to will receive a student aid report with your financial aid eligibility for different programs. Finally, you can review and accept the financial aid package you are offered, if any.
How Does FAFSA Work for Community College?
For community college, you will apply for FAFSA online and use the federal school code. On the form, you will be asked to provide detailed information about yourself and your family situation. Associate degree students are considered undergraduate students, and you will be assessed as a dependent student unless you meet certain criteria.
How Does FAFSA Work for Graduate School?
FAFSA works for graduate school and professional schools the same way it does for undergraduate students. However, as a graduate student or professional student, you will be automatically considered an independent student. Your financial aid eligibility hinges on your own federal income tax returns.
Federal financial aid for master’s degrees is calculated based on your income. Therefore, you may be able to get a larger financial aid package than a dependent student. You can access similar aid forms as undergraduate students, including federal grants, loans, and work-study opportunities.
Where Can I Use FAFSA?
You can use FAFSA whether you are attending a private, public, or community college, as long as the school is accredited. Your student aid report will give you all the details about your eligibility for financial aid. The federal financial aid you receive can be used towards tuition, books and supplies, food, accommodation, and some utilities, such as WIFI.
- Community colleges
- Public universities
- Accredited traditional private universities and colleges
- Accredited online universities and colleges
- Undergraduate programs
- Graduate programs
Can You Use FAFSA for Online Classes?
Yes, you can use FAFSA to get federal aid for online classes as long as you are enrolled in an accredited program at an accredited school. If you are attending some classes online or earning your degree online, you can still apply for and receive federal student aid. If you are taking an online program, you can also find additional sources for financial aid for online college.
How to Qualify for FAFSA
FAFSA gives financial aid funds based on financial need. Whether you are applying as a dependent student or an independent student, your application form must demonstrate a need for financial aid. Details of your income, as well as your parent’s income, are required when filling out your financial aid forms.
Special considerations are made for students from different backgrounds, such as those with disabilities, those who are homeless, students who are in foster care, and those who are non-citizens or who have parents in the military. Below are the basic eligibility requirements you will need to fulfill to qualify for FAFSA.
FAFSA Eligibility Requirements
- US citizen
- Valid social security number
- High school diploma or GED
- Demonstrated financial need
- Enrolled in a degree or certificate program at an accredited school
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress
- Enrolled at least half-time for the Direct Loan Program
Can I Apply for FAFSA If I Owe Student Loans?
Yes, you can apply for FAFSA if you owe student loans, as long as you are in good standing. One of the FAFSA requirements is that you sign a certification statement that you are not in default on any federal loan and do not owe money on any federal grant. If you are having trouble repaying your student loans, you can lower your payments, get temporary relief, or repay your loans based on your income.
What Financial Aid Can I Receive Through FAFSA?
- Federal grants. Federal grants are a type of financial aid available to students where the funds issued do not need to be paid back. The Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant are some examples of federal grants.
- Federal student loans. Federal loans can be part of your financial aid package. The money you receive through a loan must be paid back with interest. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, as well as parents of dependent undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need are eligible. Some examples of federal student loans are Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and Direct PLUS Loans.
- Federal work-study. The Federal Work-Study program provides part-time jobs for students pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies that are either full-time or part-time. Students can earn money through work-study jobs to pay for college expenses. Work-study jobs are on campus and offer convenient schedules for students.
- Education and training vouchers. These vouchers are a type of grant that is awarded to youth and young adults who have been or still are in foster care. Eligible students have been in foster care after turning 14 or were adopted after the age of 16. You can use the $5,000 per year vouchers to pay for training, career school, or college.
- Aid for military families. Students in the military and their families have access to special scholarships, grants, and loans. Some common military aid programs are Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) scholarships, GI Bill benefits, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
How to Apply for FAFSA
1. Prepare Your Information
The FAFSA form is a detailed document, so prepare the information you’ll need ahead of time to make the process smoother. Gather the list of colleges you are applying to, social security numbers for you and your parents, your income if you are working, and information about your family size and income.
2. Fill Out the FAFSA Form
Begin by creating an online account to obtain an ID and password that you will use each time you need to apply for aid. The application will ask for your and your parents’ personal information, as well as information about your family’s income. With the online FAFSA application, you can use the IRS data retrieval tool, which gathers the financial information needed from your federal income tax return.
3. Review Your Student Aid Report
You will receive a Student Aid Report after your application is reviewed with a summary of the information you provided on your FAFSA application. It indicates your dependency status and how much your family is expected to contribute towards your college education. Review this document and edit your online application if there are any errors.
Please note that FAFSA sends your application, student aid report, and the expected family contribution details to the universities you listed in your application. You may be selected for verification by FAFSA or the school, and additional documentation, such as signed copies of your IRS tax returns, 1099, and W-2 forms, may be required.
4. Respond to Your Financial Aid Offer
Each school will award aid based on your Student Aid Report. Your financial aid package will be a combination of federal aid programs and school-specific scholarships and grants. Compare the financial aid offers from the different schools with the cost of attendance and calculate how much you will have to pay out of pocket for each school.
5. Receive Financial Aid
You will receive your financial aid in installments according to your school’s academic calendar, usually once per term. For work-study jobs, you will be paid directly, either monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly.
How to Apply for FAFSA as an Independent
Financial aid applicants can apply for FAFSA as independent students the same way they apply as dependent students. You fill out the same form with the same financial information, but you use information about your own finances rather than your legal parents’ information. There are a set of questions on the FAFSA form that help determine if you should apply as an independent student or not.
How to Apply for FAFSA for Summer
To apply for FAFSA for the summer, you will first need to speak to your school’s financial aid office to determine which FAFSA application they use for summer sessions. If you have any funds left over from your fall and spring semesters, you can use those excess funds.
When Is FAFSA Due?
FAFSA is due every year at the end of June for the upcoming school year starting in September. The federal deadline for the 2022 to 2023 school year is June 30, 11:59 Central Time (CT). Any corrections or updates you need to make to your application must be submitted by September 10, 11:59 CT.
This deadline may differ from your school’s financial aid deadline, which must be met if you are to receive any financial aid. Check with your school regarding their financial aid process so that you don’t miss any earlier deadlines. In addition, your school may also require you to fill out additional forms.
How Much Financial Aid Can I Get?
The amount of aid you can receive is based on how many financial aid opportunities you apply for. Beyond federal aid, state governments and individual schools also have their own scholarships and grants that eligible students can apply for. Some students get enough financial aid to cover the full cost of tuition and living expenses.
Why Is FAFSA Important?
FAFSA is important because higher education is expensive and annual charges for students are rising every year. Your FAFSA application is a tool used by the federal government and individual schools to determine how much financial aid you can receive.
Financial aid data from the Education Data Initiative shows that more than two billion dollars of federal grants go unclaimed annually. Use the FAFSA to apply for financial aid to use these federal programs and get the benefits of a college education.
How to Apply for FAFSA FAQ
You need to complete one application per year to get aid from FAFSA. The federal government will use the information on your application to determine your eligibility for aid from federal sources. You will need to complete separate applications for school-based grants, additional scholarships, and other private financial aid sources.
Yes, you can apply for FAFSA as an independent undergraduate student if you are older than 24 years old. If you are an undergraduate who is under 24 years old, you must either be orphaned, in foster care or a ward of the state past the age of 13, an emancipated minor, homeless, a US veteran or in active-duty military service or married to apply as an independent.
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If your financial situation changes, you can contact your school’s financial aid office to let them know how your financial situation has changed. You can then adjust your FAFSA by answering the questions asked about changes to your financial situation. Your financial aid package should be adjusted accordingly.
If you come from a low-income home, you should definitely apply for federal student aid by completing the FAFSA. The FAFSA is a crucial way to get financial aid for low-income families. Don’t hesitate to apply for financial aid. There are plenty of financial aid funds available to low-income families.
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