The college process involves a lot of applications, ones for financial aid being some of them. The FAFSA form rewards over 8 million students, with over 130 billion dollars annually, and approximately 13 million apply for financial aid each year. In this post, I will break down the FAFSA application, including how to apply, the cost, and how the entire process works.
FAFSA, also known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, accesses grants, funds, and student loans. The money comes from the US Department of Education, and it covers expenses including tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, and transportation. US citizens, nationals, legal permanent residents, and those who have an Arrival-Departure Record from US Citizenship and Immigration Services qualify for financial aid.
As stated in its name, the FAFSA is completely free to fill out. Students are required to get an FSA ID, which is an account you will set up for the US Department of Education. Around 1-3 days after you create an FSA ID, you will get an email allowing you to fill out the FAFSA form.
The application can be accessed online through a mobile device, and the application opens on October 1st. The federal due date is June 30th, but schools can sometimes request them due by December 1st. Results come out on a rolling basis, but the earlier you apply, the more federal aid programs you’re eligible for.
In terms of the actual application, students will need to provide:
Parents will also need to provide:
The FAFSA looks at the tax returns from two years ago; the FAFSA will look at the 2019 tax returns for students planning to enroll in the fall of 2021. After all, sections are filled out, a number representing the expected family contribution(EFC) is created. The lower the EFC, the more eligible the student is for financial aid. EFCs can be as low as zero and have no maximum; those with an EFC lower than 5577 are eligible for a Pell Grant. Families who earn $26,000 or less annually have an automatic EFC of zero, but this salary varies from year to year.
A couple of days after you submit your FAFSA application, you will receive a Student Aid Report(SAR). It is a summary of what you submitted, so it is important to double-check and make sure there are no mistakes. In terms of how they determine the amount of money a student is granted, FAFSA looks at your expected family contribution and the cost of attendance. If the cost of attendance is greater than the FTC, it is subtracted from the cost of attendance and the result is the financial aid granted. These aid offers are sent individually by the school, and you will receive it after you have been accepted. Students are often given both grants and loans; some they will have to pay back, and some they won’t.
Want more information on different types of financial aid? Check out our article: Paying for College: Scholarships, Loans, and More.
Read the next article in our college application guide: Paying for College: Scholarships, Loans, and More!