What is the FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the form used by the federal government to determine eligibility for financial aid, scholarships, grants, loans and other means of funding college education. If you or your child will be attending college, you should plan to fill out this form each year. Read on to learn more about how this information is used and what to expect.

What Information Does This Form Collect?

The application collects information about a student and his or her family’s financial information, including income, assets, and obligations. This data is plugged into a formula and used to determine the expected family contribution, which is the amount of money you will be expected to contribute annually to your or your child’s college education.

What Types of Aid Does this Form Qualify You to Receive?

Even if you do not think that you qualify for financial aid, you should plan to fill out this application if you want to attend college. Various types of financial aid are determined through this application, including Pell grants, which provide a set amount of money each year that does not need to be paid back; Stafford loans and Perkins loans, which are subsidized by the federal government and carry a low interest rate; and the federal work study program, in which students hold on-campus jobs that provide payment toward college costs.

Who Is Eligible to Receive Federal Aid?

Anyone can apply for federal aid through this program who meets the following criteria: has registered for Selective Service; meets a minimum GPA if already enrolled in college; is a U.S. citizen or national; has a valid social security number; has a high school diploma or GED; and is not currently in default on any student loans, owe refunds on any federal grants, or been convicted of the sale or possession of any illegal drugs.

What Is the Process for Filling Out This Form?

You can fill out the form either online, on paper, or via telephone. The annual deadline to fill out the application for the following school year is January 1, however, you should also determine whether the school you are enrolled in or planning to attend has its own deadlines. Even if you are already enrolled in college, you must fill out a new form each year in order to be eligible for aid. After filling out the form, you’ll receive a student aid report that details the types of assistance that you’re eligible for.

Filling out this application each year is an important step of financing your college education. The information gathered can also qualify you for scholarship and other programs for your college of choice. Consult your high school guidance counselor or your college financial aid office if you need additional guidance. If you have more questions about filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, consult the office of federal student aid online, where they have compiled resources to assist you.