What is FAFSA and why should you apply?

Today is a very special day for college students across the U.S. because today, October 1st, is the day that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens for students planning to attend college in 2021. There are three types of federal student aid you may receive when you file for FAFSA:

  1. Grants: financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid!
  2. Loans: borrowed money that will need to be repaid, with interest.
  3. Work-Study: a federal work program through some participating colleges that helps students earn money while they attend. 

If you’re on the fence about filing for FAFSA, don’t be! 85% of applicants are approved for some form of federal student aid, so everyone should apply. 

Keep in mind, federal student aid is dolled out on a first-come, first-serve basis so it’s important to file for FAFSA as soon as possible. The sooner you get your aid approval letters, the more time you will have to consider your options, compare offers, and select the best school for your academic and financial needs. 

Though the federal deadline to submit a FAFSA application is June 30th, 2021, many schools have earlier deadlines. Do your research and make a schedule so you never miss a deadline.

How to apply in 3 easy steps:

Step 1: Gather your paperwork

Before you file for FAFSA, you’ll need to gather a few essential documents.

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your parents’ Social Security numbers (if you are a dependent)
  • Your driver’s license number (if applicable)
  • Your Alien Registration number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Federal tax information or tax returns (from you or your parents, if you are a dependent), including: 
    • IRS W-2 information
    • IRS 1040
    • Foreign tax return, IRS 1040NR, or IRS 1040NR-EZ
    • Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau
    • Records of your untaxed income (this could include child support received, interest income, and veterans non education benefits)
    • Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, such as stocks, bonds and real estate (not including the house you live in); and any business and farm assets

Step 2: Apply online: https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid 

Go to the Federal Student Aid website to to file your FAFSA application. Once your application has been processed you will receive your Student Aid Report, which includes:

  • An explanation of the types of aid a college has offered to you
  • An explanation of the amount of aid a college has offered you
  • Your expected costs for the year

Step 3: Choose your school

After you have reviewed your offers and selected a school, the financial aid office will apply your aid to the amount of total college costs that you owe, and then charge you the remaining balance that your aid does not cover. 

Note: you will be expected to uphold a certain academic standard in order to remain eligible for continued financial aid. If your grades drop below a certain level, you may no longer qualify. Also, don’t forget, you must file for FAFSA every year! Good luck and happy filing.