What is FAFSA?

The FAFSA or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form as its full name is managed by the Office of Federal Student Aid, part of the Department of Higher Education. All students who wish to receive financial aid for college need to fill out the FAFSA form. The application is used to determine the amount they will be expected to contribute towards the selected college. All federal grants and loan awards are calculated by the FAFSA, and nearly all colleges use the FAFSA as the basis for their own financial aid awards.

The FAFSA application is easy to complete and doesn’t take much time provided you have all the necessary documents at hand. Planning ahead is key to completing the form as quickly as possible and recent bank statements and tax returns are extremely important.

The FAFSA gathers data across five aspects of the applicant’s life to make an informed decision on their situation:

  • Information about the student
  • Information about the student’s dependency status
  • Information about the student’s parents/guardians
  • Information about the student’s finances
  • Schools that should receive the results of the FAFSA

The FAFSA form can be filled out and submitted online at their official site , or via the mail with a paper form. The Office of Federal Student Aid strongly recommends the online application because of the integrated immediate error check. This speeds up the application process with a few weeks. In addition the system allows for students so save their progress and return to an application at a later date to complete and submit it.

Prospective students need to keep in mind that any financial aid award begins with the FAFSA, which means the form needs to be submitted before the deadlines of the schools they’ve applied to. Most state deadlines are earlier than the June 30th federal deadline, so plan accordingly.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is mandatory for all US students who want to be considered for financial aid. Most educational institutions use the FAFSA to assess a student’s eligibility for grants, loans, and work-study programs. A new FAFSA is required every year in order to be considered for financial aid. These forms are made available as early as January.

FAFSA Deadlines: If applying for federal aid, the application should be submitted as early as possible, but no earlier than January 1st of the year the student plans to attend college. It is generally advised that students file their forms between January 1st and February 14th; All FAFSA applications must be received by June 30th for students to be eligible for federal aid. For state aid, the deadline for FAFSA applications is May 1st.

Based on other factors, such as location, students may be eligible for additional assistance like TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) –available to New York state residents only. Undergraduate students applying for TAP are required to be enrolled full time (12 credits). When filling out the FAFSA you will need the Federal Title IV school code for every college you want to list in your application.

Additionally the FAFSA website provides a list of documents that are required for the application. When applying online there is the added benefit of securely transferring IRS tax information into the FAFSA profile instead of inputting it manually.

The online application allows up to 10 colleges being sent the FAFSA results and the paper – up to four. Within one to three weeks, the applicant will receive the Student Aid Report (SAR), which contains their EFC. There are two options – to receive the paper SAR by mail or to receive a link to an online SAR by e-mail. The colleges listed on the FAFSA will also receive the applicant’s SAR. Once the student has applied to those colleges they will determine the financial aid package based on the EFC. They may ask for additional financial information to allocate their own need-based aid.