How to apply for FAFSA Free Application for Federal Student Aid – If we see around us then we find that numerous students want to continue their study but because of some reasons they are unable to continue their study and the biggest reason is their financial condition. They have to stop their study in mid and never fulfill their dreams. But not anymore! There are many ways by which students can get financial aid for their study and can continue their study, even they are fresher or re-joining their study.
Even it is the time of year when everyone starts to apply for the next year’s study and thinks how they can get money for their studies? One can get help for financial aid from the federal government and for this, they can apply for FAFSA. They can be filling out the FAFSA application form and get money for their next year’s education.
You can apply for next year’s education to get financial aid from FAFSA. Let us give a look that what is FAFSA and the eligibility criteria for applying for it, how much money one can get from the financial aid, and many more things. So, if you want to apply for FAFSA and get financial aid for your upcoming educational year then you have to continue read the article and get fool-proof information about FAFSA.
So What is FAFSA Free Application for Federal Student Aid?
As today we are going to discuss how one can apply for FAFSA. But before knowing that how to apply for FAFSA, we have to need to know what FAFSA is, first.
As a student, if you are preparing to go to college or you are a student who is again joining the college- you may have heard the name of the “FAFSA” at least one time. But we see that many students heard about the FAFSA but along with this they have numerous questions in their minds. They want to know many more things about FAFSA. Let us help you to know about FAFSA.
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Meaning of FAFSA
FAFSA- it stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”. This is an application form from which one can get financial aid for their education. The money one gets is used to pay for college from the United States Government. Especially, this money receives from the U.S. Department of Education.
According to Debt.Org, the U.S. Department of Education annually gives the amount of $46 billion to the students to fund their college education. So, in this direction, if you want to get a portion of your money then the first step is to fill out FAFSA. In this article, you will get all the information on how you can apply for FAFSA and get the portion of the money to pay for your college education with ease.
If you are a student of a college or a fresher or are pursuing college, then you have to fill out the FAFSA to get the benefits of it for your education and on time. For applying for the FAFSA there is a need to match with the eligibility criteria of the FAFSA. Here is the official list of eligibility requirements for Federal Student Aid. The below list is given which includes all the eligibility requirements are mentioned:
- The student has to maintain satisfactory academic progress.
- The student has a GED or high school diploma.
- The student will not be owed a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a student loan.
- The student is being enrolled or accepted into an eligible degree program or certificate program.
- If you are male and you are not on any active duty in the U.S. Armed force, then you are registering (or to be already registered) with the Selective Service System.
- The student did not have a conviction for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while they were receiving federal financial aid such as grants, loans, or work-study.
- The student or the applicant will be a U.S. citizen and they have a valid Social Security Number or an eligible non-citizen. (A permanent resident or conditional permanent resident (I-551C) with proper documentation.
If the student or an applicant matches the above-mentioned eligibility requirements then they are qualified to get the benefit of this program.
What is the Process Of Fafsa
We know that you are eagerly waiting for that how you can apply for FAFSA and what is the process of FAFSA. But don’t worry we are going to get nitty-gritty details on how to file for FAFSA shortly. But with this, you must fill out the application including the financial information of you and your parents. After that, you will receive an EFC from the Education Department.
EFC stands for the Expected Family Contribution. In other words, it means that how much money your family can afford to pay in your college tuition in the upcoming school year. The lower your EFC, the more aid you are eligible for. That means you will get the financial aid more if your EFC is low.
For the wise, there is just only one word- they have needed to re-apply each year for the following school year. This means that you don’t need to get the same amount that you get over the college course of your college education as what you are awarded for the next year. This is a very short process for the FAFSA. But you have to make sure that every year you have to apply for the FAFSA to get the financial aid for your college education. Even you are a new student, pursuing any course, or return to college after a gap. Every time you have to re-apply for the education course.
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Types of Federal Financial Aid
There are different types of Federal Financial Aid to help the students. Even they are mainly three types of federal student aid and these are given to students when they filling out the FAFSA. The three types of federal student aid are grants, loans, and work-study funds.
Grants are given to the students which they did not need to pay back. They can use the grants for their college fees and other expenses. Grants are financial aid and provide according to need.
Loans are the sum of money that is given to you by the government. But this loan money you need to be paid back, even along with the interest. You have to pay it back over some time.
Government Work-study programs
Work-study programs are very helpful for the students who are undergraduate and graduate. From this program, they can get a part-time job and earn money while in college.
So, these financial aids from the federal government help lots of students every year, but for this, the students have a need to filling out the FAFSA forms on time, so they will get grants, loans, and work-study program benefits for their education.
How to complete a FAFSA Application
As a student, it is tough to handle all the educational expenses even when you are belonging to a low-income or moderate-income family. Because the family does have not much money that they can pay money for your college fee, and it is because the college fees are too high that one cannot pay with ease. But now, students don’t have to worry because there is a way by which they can get help for their studies and continue their education. They can apply for FAFSA and get financial aid to manage their study expenses. Here are the steps are given that can help a student to apply for FAFSA. Let us see these steps and follow them to get help from FAFSA for financial aid for studies. These steps are:
#1 Determine your dependency status
When you are filing for FAFSA, in the process of filling the form you have to give answers to some questions like you are dependent or independent. You have to give answers to numerous questions during the process of FAFSA. Therefore, if you don’t know off the top of your head, then it is okay.
But here we suggest you check many things about the FAFSA application form and do your best to get all the information in your hand before you start to file for it. It will be very helpful for you to gather all the information and also it makes the process easy and time-saving. The information may include your parent’s tax information, financial status, etc.
As it is related to FAFSA, here you see that the dependent students and independent students have only one difference between them. That if you are a dependent student then you have to submit your parent’s financial status report, or if you are an independent student, then you do not need this.
So, you are a dependent or independent student? It is the most important question for the Federal Government and matters most for providing financial aid and that’s the reason that dependency status matters. But here is the gist that is important for you to know about:
According to the Federal Government, the independent student is at least one of the following:
- 24 years old
- A graduate or professional student
- A veteran
- A member of armed forces
- An orphan
- Award of the court
- Someone with legal dependents other than a spouse
- A free minor or someone who is homeless or at the risk of becoming homeless.
If any student is belonging to any of the above-mentioned options then he or she will be eligible to get financial help from Federal Government through FAFSA. But if you are none of them, then you are a dependent student.
While filing for FAFSA, you have to keep one thing in your mind that if technically you are a dependent student but your parents are unwilling to complete a FAFSA then you are not to be considered as an independent student. But here are some instances in which you may be eligible for a dependency override. And these cases may be of abuse, neglect, or incarceration. In such cases, you are eligible for the dependency override and get help.
In the last, even if you are a dependent applicant or student, note that still you have to claim for any income you gained as well, such as gifts, contests, etc.
Now, you see that dependency status is much important and also matters in the FAFSA application form. SO, before applying for FAFSA, you have to check the details of the FAFSA and gather all the information which is important to fill the application form. So, you will be eligible for the FAFSA financial aid from the Federal Government.
#2 Create an FSA ID
When you are going to process the FAFSA, you have to create an FSA ID. With this id, you can access the FAFSA application and upload the necessary documents with the form online. Along with this, you can provide the digital signature as well on the form.
Your FSA is completely and uniquely is yours. But you have to keep one thing in your mind, that according to law, you do not file FAFSA for anyone else or no one other can file for FAFSA for you. This FSA ID is completely yours and also it is confidential.
If you are not an adult or you are a dependent, then you have to need to fill in your parents’ financial information. And for this, it is important your parent(s) will need their own FSA ID.
Most of the time, it seems that confusion occurs in lots of cases and it happens only when parents and their children mix up their FAFSA IDs while filing for FSA and fill information in the application form.
#3 Gather all necessary personal information
When you are going to fill out the FAFSA application form, you need to collect all the information about you and your parents. It will make it easy to give answers to all the questions of personal information in the application form. So, try to collect all the information before starting to fill the form.
But as we see in the form the student needs to fill in tax information. So, you or/ and your parents can use the super handy IRS retrieval tool to locate your tax information.
(One thing you have to note is that you see in the documents you see 2022 year details. It is because the FAFSA now accepts the financial information from the year before last year. So, try to get all the information for the year 2018 and fill in the form with accurate details.)
If You Are A Dependent and A US Citizen Student
If you are a dependent student and also a U.S. citizen, then for filling the form you need the different documents which are listed below:
- Social Security Card
- Parents’ current business and investment records
- Untaxed income records (2018)
- Parents’ bank statements
- Federal Income Tax Return (2018)
- Drivers license (if you have one)
- Parents’ untaxed income records
- W-2 forms (2018)
- Current bank statements
- Parents’ 2018 W-2 forms
- Parent’s federal income tax return
All these are the documents that you need to fill in the information in the Form when you are a dependent U.S. citizen.
If you are a dependent student and not a U.S. citizen Student
But if you are a dependent student and not a U.S. citizen then you need:
- You have needed to submit all the above-listed documents except a Social Security card. Because all the documents are necessary.
In the case, you are an independent student and also a U.S. citizen then you need to gather the documents:
- Driving license if you have any
- Social Security card
- Untaxed income records
- W-2 forms
- Federal Income tax return
- Your current bank statement
If you are an independent and U.S. citizen, then you need to collect these documents and fill information in the FAFSA form. But make sure that you will gather all the documents so you don’t be late for filling the form.
In another case, if you are an independent student but not a U.S. citizen then you need the documents:
- Same, you have needed to submit all the documents rather than the Social Security card. It is because the social security card is just given to the citizens of the U.S.
So, whenever you are going to fill out the FAFSA form, try to gather all the necessary documents to fill out the form. So, you don’t need to face any problem filling the form or leave any column empty because you don’t collect all the necessary documents. That’s why it is important to look for the documents that you needed to fill the form.
#4 Determine what parental information you’ll need
In the FAFSA application form, there are numerous different questions that you have to give the answers them. The above list of necessary FAFSA information is the guideline that is important to collect. But we also understand that the condition of every family is not the same. If you are a dependent student then you have to fill in your parent’s information. This information will vary depending on your parental dynamic. You have to provide the information of your parents in the FAFSA application form, even they are legal parents, divorced or widowed parents, married or unmarried. That’s why it is suggested to the applicants to check for the information and gather all the details and after that file for FAFSA. Let us see what we have to do for proceeding.
For example, if you are parents are divorced then you have needed to give information about your both parents or not?
This is a great infographic illustrating which parent’s information you will need for FAFSA based on your unique circumstances, but you see that here is the breakdown. This is:
- Like, if your legal parents are unmarried, they are separated, divorced, or do not live together…
You have to provide the above-listed information about the parent with whom you resided for the last 12 months. But if you are living only with one parent and never live with other, then you have to give information of the parent who gives you the financial help more in the last 12 months.
Note: If the parent you do not live with most paid alimony during 2018, then it must be entered as income in your FAFSA application.
- For example, if your legal parents are unmarried and still they are living together, then…
You have to provide the information about both of the parents in the FAFSA form.
- If your parents are married, then…
In this case, also you have to provide the information for both of the parents in the application form.
- Another example, if your parents are remarried after they are being divorced or widowed, then….
In this situation, you have need t provide the information of your parent and also your step-parent.
- Last example, if your parent is widowed, then…
In that case, you have to provide the information of your living parent in the FAFSA application form.
Finally, in the end, it is worth noting that a legal parent for the sake of FAFSA, refers to:
- Your legal biological parent or adoptive parent
- Or a legal guardian who is determined by the state and is reflected on your birth certificate.
But there is one thing that does not consider legally or in the form of your parents. That means, unfortunately, at this time, foster parents, grandparents, siblings, widowed step-parents, or older siblings, or aunts/uncles are not considered as your parent until they do not adopt you legally.
So, you see that parenting information is also matters in the FAFSA form, but you have to check before filing the form what information you have to need to collect for your parents, so later you don’t face any type of difficulty to provide the information in the FAFSA application form and you have to delay to submit the form.
#5 Decide which schools will receive your FAFSA
When you file the FAFSA application, you have to fill in much different information in the form. One of them is to submit a FAFSA for every school for which you are applying. One of the last questions on the FAFSA asks you to enter the 6-digit code for every college for that you are applying. Every college has a different FAFSA code, so you need to find the 6-digit FAFSA code list for different colleges.
You can visit www.fafsa.gov or call on 1-800-433-3243 to find the list of FAFSA 6-digit codes. If, because for some reason, you are not able to fill the FAFSA code, then you can enter your address and contact information of yours manually in the form. But you have to try for filling the FAFSA 6-digit code; otherwise, a second option is available for you.
#6 Answer All of the FAFSA Questions
In any of the application forms, there are numerous questions and it is mandatory to give their answers. In the same way, the FAFSA application form has some of the necessary questions that need the answer. And once you will collect all the information to fill in the form (the hardest part), you have to enter all the information in the series of questions in the FAFSA application form.
If we talk then there are 108 questions in the application form under the different categories and some of those are mentioned below:
- Student’s personal information
- Student’s household information
- Student’s financial information
- Student’s Status (this helps you to determine that you need to enter the parent information if you don’t have to figure out this before.)
- Parent’s information
- Student’s signature, date, and send off
It is well understood that when you gather all the information before filling the FAFSA application form then it is not hard to fill the form. If you are confused about that what any of the questions are asking for? However, you can see the overview of FAFSA questions which clarifies each question, along with this it also gives you directions to whom you can contact directly for more help. So, it is helpful for the students who are filling the FAFSA application form for the first time or second or third time. They will always get help to fill the form and apply for it. So, they don’t have any confusion or they will be late for submitting their application form.
#7 Receive your SAR and EFC
Once you fill out your FAFSA application form and submit it, you will get your SAR report. SAR stands for “Student Aid Report”. You will get your SAR from the mail within 10 days and from email within 5 days if you provided an email address in the application form.
Your SAR will show all the details or information that you provide in the application form as well as your EFC (“Extended Family Contribution”, as is discussed prior).
According to the SAR, you can see that if you have missed any information to fill out in the form, then you can update it (in the condition if you don’t receive your EFC). You can get help from the guidelines to change or update the information in the form.
Here is everything that you need to know about your SAR, but you have to make sure that it includes:
- A DRN or “Data Release Number” that you can be used later if you want to grant your college permission to make changes or updates in the FAFSA application form.
- A note that you have been selected for the verification. And if you receive this then you do not need to be panic. Because it does not mean that enter something wrong or have done something wrong. So, you can read more about the steps to take for verification here.
One thing you have to note that in your SAR, there is no amount of Federal Student Aid is mentioned, for that you are eligible. That information will come to you in the award letter from each college directly. Therefore you don’t be panic if you miss any information to fill out or you are called for the verification. There are ways to correct them, you can use the guidelines and help yourself.
#8 Make any changes necessary
When you fill out the FAFSA form and get your SAR report, and you find that there is a mistake in any information column or you want to update any information, then you have to don’t worry about this. You need to just log in again to your FAFSA account (remember that FSA ID), and there you have to select the “Make FAFSA correction” and make changes in the field where you want.
Not only this, but you can also make substantial changes to your FAFSA form. Such as, if your financial condition significantly changed or any other important thing. You can also find ways how to make changes to your FAFSA form after it is filled out. So, you can make changes accordingly but have to make sure to submit it before its deadline.
#9 Receive and Interpret your financial award letters
When you get accepted to the college that day, you will also receive a financial aid reward letter. That letter contains the detail of your financial aid package. The amount, which is determined in large part by your FAFSA.
Essentially, the financial aid package contains the money that the school is ready to provide you. This money comes from federal aid and the school’s financial aid. But the school’s financial aid can vary from school to school.
In terms of federal aid, you see that there are 3 categories in which the aid can be provided to the students or applicants. You can see them in the letter, and about them, we talk earlier as well. These are:
Let us discuss them in detail and know how they are beneficial for the students and what are the terms and conditions of them.
Government Grants for students
There are grants available for students who need financial aid for their studies. Here you see the overview of federal grants. But the best one of them is the need-based Federal Pell Grant. This is the grant that is designed to help the students for low-income undergraduate students. Pell grants are range from $500 to $5,500, but it depends on one’s need.
Not only this but here are the grants are available for more students. Such as the students whose parents are served in the military and the students who are taking courses to become teachers. Those students can also apply for this and get a grant for their studies.
And the important thing about the grants is that you have do not need to repay them.
Government Loans for students
As there are different grants for the students, same as there are loans are available for the students. You can see the overview of federal loans. The U.S. Department of Education uses a system called the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. Under this program, there are 4 types of loans, and these are:
- The undergraduate students who are in financial need, then for them there are the Direct Subsidized Loans.
- For undergraduate, graduate, or career college students who are not based on the financial need for those students, Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available.
- Even there is the loan that helps you to combine all of your federal loans into a single loan and that is Direct Consolidation Loans.
- For the students who don’t get enough money from other financial aids, there are Direct PLUS Loans. This loan is also for the graduate or professional students and for parents of dependent undergrads to help them to pay for the educational expenses. Even these type of loans are contingent upon a credit check and there are not need-based.
About the loans, you have to remember one thing, that these loans you have to do repay along with the interest. Also, you have to repay the loan over the specified period. Otherwise, you have to face problems regarding the loan.
Work-study For students
As there are different ways to help the students so that they can handle or manage their educational expenses, one of them is work-study funding. Here is an overview of work-study funding. Here you see that some schools provide part-time jobs to the students so they can earn from there and help to pay their school or college course fees.
Work-study jobs are paying at least minimum wages. Even you are an undergraduate or graduate student on this base the total amount is varied.
Overall, it seems that the financial aid award letter may be a little tricky to understand. That’s why we suggest you contact the financial aid advisor in every school or college for receiving financial aid for your education. They will help you to know that how you can apply for this, how much financial aid package you are eligible for and what are you doing for the financial help, what will be responsible for paying back, and so on. They will give you the best advice according to their college rules and policies, and where you think is the best amount and get easily then you can apply with them.
This is a great guide on how to read a financial aid award letter as is this guide to financial aid award letters. Even this includes the helpful award letter breakdown.
Therefore, you see that these different categories of getting financial aid for the students are helpful for them in different situations. So the students can apply for the one that is suitable for them and they are ready to get the financial aid. But they are suggested to the first contact with the financial aid officer at the college or school where they want to apply so that they can understand the financial aid in a better way and how much amount they can get from the financial aid as well.
#10 Appeal your financial aid award if necessary
As all the steps are given in above that how you can apply for FAFSA, fill the application form, submit it and get financial aid from the government. But still, if you don’t get enough money for your college to pay, then the first thing you have to do is to contact the financial aid office immediately. Even many of the students don’t know about their rights. The right that they can appeal for more money anytime if they don’t get enough money to pay their college course fee.
However, every school has its policy for appealing for more money or financial assistance. And you will need to follow the protocols and get financial assistance in the right way.
As many students don’t know about getting more financial aid for their college fees, as well as it is tricky to receive more financial help when once you get the help financially, but it is not impossible. You may be asked to write a letter by financial aid advisor, to know what the reason to appeal for financial aid is or why you need more money.
For appealing more financial aid, a very good reason for appeal letter is that after filing your FAFSA application form, the family or life circumstances are changed immediately and you are unable to pay the college fee.
For Instance, if in your family there is any death immediately, then you are the strong candidate who can receive the financial aid on an instant basis. Here is a resource that you can look at that we use on how to write a financial aid appeal letter. You can look here and get help to write your appeal letter for more financial aid.
Therefore, if you are in need and wants to get help for more financial aid, then you can appeal for it by contacting your financial aid office in your school or college, they will help you to write the appeal letter and also ask the reason that why you need more money.
Now, you see that there are mainly 10 steps that you have to follow for filing the FAFSA application form. At every step, you have to give answers to some questions and that’s why it is suggested to all the applicants and students that they first gather all the information which they need to fill in the form. So that they do have not to face any type of issue later or while filling the firm.
But one thing that they have to remember is that they have to need to fill and submit the form before its ending date. Even it is good for the students if they submit the form as soon as possible because it will increase the chances of being eligible for the FAFSA financial aid.
Key dates and deadlines for filing a FAFSA
When you are going to file the FAFSA form for you, you have to make sure that you filed by midnight Central Time on June 30. You have to file the FAFSA for the academic year for that you want and most importantly on time.
Yes, it is a long window of time. But if you want to get financial aid from them then you have to apply for the FAFSA as soon as possible, so your chances of getting the financial aid will be increased and you will be shortlisted for the financial aid. Even you can see that some of the federal financial aids are given based on “first come first served”.
Even your FAFSA is also calculated to use how much money will get or be eligible on basis of the state of your residence. According to that, your FAFSA money is calculated and you get money. Every state has its deadline, for that, you can look it up here, and find what is your state’s deadline for filing for FAFSA.
Along with this, every college also has its deadlines to file for FAFSA and provide financial aid. So, you need to check the deadline of colleges as well, before you are going to apply for FAFSA with any college.
So, you have to need to check for the deadline of the FAFSA before filing for it, always. Even you have to apply for this too much quickly when the forms are open. Only this is the way by which you can increase your chances to get the FAFSA scholarship.
People also search for
We see that many of the students have questions about the FAFSA and federal financial aid. We choose some of the FAFSA FAQs which are important to give information. Those questions are mentioned below, let us give the answers to those questions.
Is FAFSA free for all the students?
Yes, it is sure. It is not just a clever name. To file for FAFSA there are no explicit or hidden fees. But if you are going to fill the FAFSA and because of some reasons you are asked to provide payment to file, it means that you are not using a legitimate FAFSA application. That’s why you have never need to pay any fees for filing the FAFSA application.
Is FAFSA required for all the students?
The answer is no. But if you are in search of any type of financial aid then you can look out for the one and also fill out for your need. You see that you can get financial aid packages on different bases. By using FAFSA, Federal, State, and campus-based financial-aid packages are generated. So, if you are in need and have need to pay for the college fees then you have to look for the FAFSA, it is the place from where you can start.
How do I accept financial aid?
When you receive your financial aid, along with it you get the instructions that how you can accept the financial aid. You see that these are official instructions that are given for accepting your financial aid. Generally, you have to need to tell your college directly, that what type of aid you want to accept. You need to read your reward letter carefully because each school and college has its process. So, without reading the letter don’t try to proceed, otherwise, you have to face problems in the future. But you decide to have a loan, then you will be asked to sign a promissory note, promising to repay loans.
How do I receive my financial aid?
Nope! You just have to accept what you need. There is one good rule of thumb that when the talk is accepting financial aid, then you have just to accept the money that you do not need to pay back. Then it is easy for you to choose that which of the loans you need to accept. That means the loan that can cover the cost of school or college if there is any loan available. There is no force to accept all of your financial aid, you can stay select those which are important for you to cover the school cost, so you don’t need to pay back all the money or feel a burden on your shoulders for the loan.
Now, we hope that you will have no doubt about the FAFSA financial aid and how you can get the money and use the money for your school or college. We choose the most common questions and every student has doubts about them. We give answers to those questions to help the students, so they can proceed with FAFSA for getting financial aid from the federal government. We hope that all of your doubts are now clear and you can fill FAFSA for getting financial help for your studies.
Beyond FAFSA: Other ways to pay for college
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Even one can look for the different types of scholarships and student loan payoff opportunities. But for this, you need to check on the website regularly, so that when a scholarship or student loan is available on the website and matches your requirements and has no more eligibility criteria then you can apply for it and get help instantly.
If you are a student who needs financial help for their educational expenses or you are come from a family who does not able to handle the expenses of your study, then no worry because there is an application form by filling them you can apply for the financial aid. You can apply for FAFSA financial aid, they provide financial aid only for the educational expenses and tries to help the students to continue their studies. But for filing the FAFSA, the students have to need to gather all the necessary information before starting to fill it. So that they can submit the form before its deadline and also as early as possible for them, they will increase their chances of getting financial aid. Even they can get help in different ways such as grants, loans, and work-study and help theirself. But first, they have to check for eligibility criteria, key dates and deadlines, how they can apply, steps, and financial package for that they are eligible.