All About the FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is required for all students who seek consideration for federal financial aid programs. Before completing, compile all tax information – for yourself and parents or spouse.
For most federal student aid programs, the FAFSA is the only form you’ll need to file. To receive a Federal Family Education Loan, (FFEL); Stafford Loan, or a Direct or FFEL Plus Loan, you’ll have to complete additional forms.
Submit the form no sooner than January 1, but as quickly as possible thereafter. (Aid is distributed first-come, first-serve.)
In about a month, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) which you should check for accuracy. This report will identify the amount you’re expected to contribute toward your education, also called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
At about the same time, the school you plan to attend will send you a financial aid award letter that will summarize grants and loans for which you are eligible.
FAFSA on the Web is a free US Department of Education Web site where you can complete the FAFSA online and submit it via the Internet. You can use FAFSA on the Web on a PC or Macintosh that’s equipped with certain versions of Netscape.
FAFSA Express is a free software program that allows you to apply for federal student aid from your home computer for from a computer at a central location such as a school, public library, or location Educational Opportunity Center that uses FAFSA Express. FAFSA Express is only available for PCs running Windows® and a modem.
Filing the FAFSA
- Ask your high school guidance office or call 1.800.433.3243 for a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in late fall, or visit FAFSA on the Web.
- Complete the FAFSA. Be sure to include both student and parent signatures and to list all colleges you’re interested in applying to for financial aid.
- Mail your completed form as soon after January 1 as possible. Financial aid is generally awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so don’t put it off.
- In about four weeks, you’ll receive the FAFSA results or Student Aid Report (SAR). The colleges you listed on the FAFSA will receive the same results.
- The college financial aid offices will use the results to calculate your financial aid package.
- You should begin receiving college financial aid award letters summarizing your financial aid package after all the paperwork is complete and you’ve been accepted for admission.
The US Department of Education allows students to complete the FAFSA electronically. Check with your guidance counselor for more information.
Independent vs. Dependent: A dependent student is defined as 23 years old or younger who has access to parental support. A student is considered independent if (s)he is one of the following:
- 24 years old or older
- a graduate or professional student
- someone with legal dependents other than a spouse
- an orphan or ward of the court
- a veteran of the armed services
Verification – Many applicants are selected for “verification,” or validation of the information provided on the FAFSA. Immediately respond to all requests to avoid application delays.