FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA gives qualified applicants education assistance that allows them to help pay for college. Education assistance can come in the form of grants, loans or work-study opportunities to students enrolled in both undergraduate and graduate studies. In order to determine one’s qualifications for federal or state funding, students must complete the free FAFSA application.
The FAFSA application requires students to submit certain documents and provide various pieces of information. Generally, they must show that they intend to enroll in a degree or certificate program. Other qualifying factors include U.S. citizenship status or lawful residency and financial need. Learn more about FAFSA in the sections below.
What is the FAFSA application?
The FAFSA is an application that helps determine whether a student qualifies for financial assistance (grants or federal student loans) to help them pay for the cost of education. Based on their answers in the FAFSA, some students may be found eligible to participate in a work-study program as well, which allows them to earn money for school while working in a part-time position.
Note: All federal work-study programs pay at least the federal current minimum wage.
This application for student aid requires information about income (student and parents’, if applicable), the college to be attended, current education and more.
What grants and loans can you receive via the FAFSA?
Students can receive several types of FAFSA grants, which is money that does not need to be repaid. The program awards several types of grants, such as:
- The Federal Pell Grant
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants
- The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service grants
Applicants may also, or instead, qualify for loans via the FAFSA application. FAFSA loans must be repaid with interest by the student over time. These are available to those who may not be eligible for grants or scholarships. Students who have higher education costs may choose to take out a loan in addition to a grant they already received. There are a few different types of loans available through FAFSA, including:
- Direct Subsidized Loans
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans
- Direct PLUS Loans
- Direct Consolidation Loans
Learn About the Requirements to Receive Education Assistance Via the FAFSA
Eligibility for education assistance is verified through the FAFSA application process, which involves submitting information and documents. To qualify for education assistance, students must be able to meet the following criteria:
- They demonstrate a need for financial help.
- They have completed high school or earned a GED.
- Some students may qualify through completion of a career pathway program instead of a GED or diploma.
- They must be a U.S. citizen or qualifying non-citizen.
- They must have a valid Social Security Number (SSN).
- They must enroll in a college degree or certificate program.
- They must/must have register/registered for Selective Service if they are male and between the ages of 18 and 25.
Eligibility also depends on the student’s ability to maintain good grades throughout the first year of using financial aid. Those who do not meet satisfactory standards are at risk of losing financial aid for the following year.
How do I fill out the FAFSA form?
The process for how to apply for FAFSA benefits is simple. Paper applications are available, but most students choose to apply online. No matter how you choose to apply, you must submit the FAFSA application before your state’s financial aid deadline.
The financial aid application can be completed by the student or the parent. Depending on who fills it out, the process can vary slightly. Regardless, every applicant must provide the following information when applying for aid:
- The student’s FSA ID
- All students must create an ID before applying online.
- The student’s personal information
- Social Security Number (SSN)
- Date of birth
- Dependency status
- Information for each school the student applies to (maximum of 10)
- School name
- Federal code
- Demographic information about the student’s parent(s)
- Financial and tax return information
When applying for FAFSA by mail, students should retain a copy of the form for their personal records. Once the application is complete, they can mail it to the address below:
Federal Student Aid Programs
P.O. Box 7650
London, KY 40742-7650
Upon submitting the financial aid application, students will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). This allows them to review their application and make any changes or corrections as needed. The SAR does not provide information about any financial aid they may receive. Students usually get this information directly from the school or college they applied to.
How much financial aid can I receive through FAFSA?
Now that you have learned how to submit the FAFSA application, the next important item is finding out how much assistance you can receive. This depends on the aid you qualify for. Additionally, your assistance package varies based on the school you plan to attend. There are caps placed on the total amount of money you can receive in federal grants and student loans.
For grants, the maximum amount you can receive is:
- $6,495 for Federal Pell Grants
- $4,000 for FSEOG
- $4,000 for TEACH Grants
- $5,983.34 for Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants
For FAFSA student loans, the maximum amount of money you can borrow depends on the type of loan you are securing, your grade level and whether you are a dependent of your parent or another guardian. For example, the borrowing limits for Direct Loans typically range between $5,500 and $12,500 per year.
You can calculate your estimated federal student aid amount using the FAFSA4caster planning tool provided by the U.S. Department of Education. You can use this tool to get an idea of the amount of aid you may qualify for based on the personal information you submit.
Do you need to repay your FAFSA money?
FAFSA loans must be repaid with interest over time. When it comes time to begin making payments, students can choose the type of repayment schedule that works for them. There are standard, graduated or extended repayment plan options available. If you need more flexibility in repaying your loans, you may consider applying for an income-based repayment plan.
Depending on your current financial situation, you could qualify for the following types of income-based plans:
- Pay as You Earn (PAYE)
- Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment (REPAYE)
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
If you are enrolled in a FAFSA work study program, you can elect for some of your earnings to automatically go toward the balance of your loan. If you are struggling to make your payments, you may be able to postpone them if you qualify for a forbearance or deferment with your loan servicer.
However, grant money received through the FAFSA application process does not need to be repaid.