Your Guide to the FAFSA

on April 27, 2016

We get a lot of questions about the FAFSA, and it’s no surprise – it can be pretty confusing! Here’s a quick guide to all things FAFSA to help you understand exactly what you need to do to qualify for financial aid and maximize your award.

What is the FAFSA?


FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You’ll need to complete this application to qualify for federal student aid, including government loans, grants, and work-study programs. It’s also used to calculate state aid.

Should I Fill Out the Application?


Without a doubt, yes! Even if you doubt you’ll receive any awards or anticipate you’ll get a big scholarship, fill out the FAFSA. Many of the colleges and universities on your list will use FAFSA data to determine how much school-sponsored aid you’ll receive.

When Do I Fill out the FAFSA?


As soon as possible after October 1. Waiting too long means you could miss out on available aid. About a dozen states offer state grants on a first-come, first-served basis until the money runs out. 

What Do I Need?


There’s a list of things you need to fill out the FAFSA.

Is the Application Long and Complicated?


The FAFSA should take you less than an hour to complete. Just be sure to enter your information carefully and double check it!

Do I Need to Fill it Out Every Year?


Yes. You’ll need to file the FAFSA every year you want financial aid for college. It shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes to renew your application for your sophomore, junior, or senior year of college.

I Submitted my FAFSA – What Now?


The U.S. Department of Education will review your application and determine what aid you’re eligible for. After your application is processed, you’ll get a Student Aid Report (SAR). The colleges and universities you listed on your FAFSA will receive this information in an Institutional Student Information Report (ISAR) and the schools will use this information to determine what federal and school-specific aid you’re eligible for. The colleges themselves are responsible for letting you know how much aid you’ll receive.

I Still Have Questions!


We’re sure you do! For more in-depth information or to fill out your application, check out the FAFSA website, the Filing the FAFSA book, Form Your Future or dial 1-800-4FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

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