NEVER pay to complete the FAFSA; the FAFSA is always free. As a matter of fact, that’s what the first F stands for:
Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
If you plan to submit the form online, be sure to file at FAFSA.gov, and avoid sites like FAFSA.com that offer to file the FAFSA for a hefty fee. Always check for the “.gov” to make sure you’re in the right place!
Even if you think you or your parents make too much money to qualify for financial aid, submit the FAFSA anyway. Students are often surprised by the aid they’re awarded.
There’s not a specific income cutoff to qualify for federal financial aid, and many other factors are considered. The only hard and fast rules of eligibility are that you must:
- Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States.
- Have a valid Social Security Number.
- Have a high school diploma or a GED certificate, or have completed homeschooling.
- Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate.
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
- Not owe a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a federal student loan.
- Register (or already be registered) with the Selective Service System, if you are a male and not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Even if you are not awarded grants, most students qualify for some type of federal student aid. Some schools use the data from your FAFSA to award state or school-specific grants and scholarships, so submitting the application may open more doors than you expect.
On average, it takes less than an hour to fill out the FAFSA online, so why not do it? It could turn out to be well worth your time!
As the parent of a high school senior, you know your child will soon learn what it means to lead an independent life. However, when it comes to completing the FAFSA, unless they answer “yes” to any of the questions regarding student dependency, they’re probably considered “dependent” on your finances (though special circumstances may apply).
We understand the reservations you may have about providing sensitive information on the FAFSA; especially when submitting it electronically. However, refusing to complete your part of the FAFSA for your dependent student could prevent your senior from getting financial aid to help pay for college.
Keep in mind that electronic completion of the FAFSA can save you time and help prevent errors. And, FAFSA.gov goes to great lengths to secure your information. But, if you are uncomfortable with submitting your personal information online, you do have the option to mail a paper copy of the form. However you choose to submit the FAFSA, be sure to do so as soon as possible after Oct. 1 to help maximize your child’s potential sources of financial aid.
To learn more about your filing options, visit fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm or call 1-800-4-FED-AID.
We get it. You may not think of fun when you think about the FAFSA. Few folks enjoy paperwork, and the FAFSA requires time, personal information and answers to tricky questions. But, like so many other aspects of adult life, there’s no reward without effort. If you need money to help pay for college, the FAFSA is the place to start. You must complete the FAFSA to find out if you’re eligible for federal (and some state) financial aid.
If you don’t complete the FAFSA, here’s what you could miss out on:
- Work-study opportunities
- Low-interest student loans
- State Aid
If you’re planning to go to college this fall, submit the FAFSA as soon as possible to help maximize your financial aid offers. Save yourself some time by completing the form online at FAFSA.gov.
We’ve been busy updating our FAFSA tools to provide you with the most up-to-date information available. Check out our resources section to find helpful websites, updated publications and our video tutorial that shows you how to complete the FAFSA in five steps (available in English and Spanish).
Let’s play a game!
True or False? Nearly everyone who submits a FAFSA qualifies for some type of financial aid. (Answer: True!)
True or False? When it comes to financial aid, it’s best to keep all savings accounts under the student’s name. (Answer: False. The FAFSA uses a larger percentage of student income and assets when determining Expected Family Contribution (EFC), so it’s best to keep all savings accounts in your parents’ names, if possible.)
True or False? Males age 18-25 must be registered with Selective Service to receive federal financial aid. (Answer: True. Registration is available on the FAFSA.)
These and many other key facts about the FAFSA are listed on our FAFSA Facts flyer. Visit the resources section to find this flyer and other helpful resources.
How many people live in your house? The question seems easy enough at first, but when you’re completing the FAFSA, the answer may not be that simple. First you’ll need to know if you’re a dependent or independent student. Check out our Dependency Questionnaire for help with this.
If you’re a dependent student, a parent will determine the household size, which can include:
- You, even if you don’t live with your parent(s)
- Your parent(s)
- Other dependent children
- Other people who are now living with your parents and rely on them for more than half of their support
If you’re an independent student, you can include:
- Your spouse (if applicable)
- Your children, if you will be providing more than half of their support
- Other people who are now living with you and rely on you for more than half of their support
Remember, the online version of the FAFSA has ‘Helpful Hint’ boxes attached to every question. Be sure to refer to the box attached to the Household Size question if you need any clarification. You can also find more detailed directions about determining your household size at FinAid.org.
Planning for college can sometimes feel overwhelming. With so much to do and prepare, you may find that breaking the process into steps can make it much more manageable. With that approach in mind, we’re pleased to introduce you to Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps. Download this helpful brochure for a list of materials you’ll need to gather to complete the FAFSA, to learn what you can expect from the FAFSA process, and to find additional tools and resources along the way.
We also offer video tutorials in English and Spanish that show students and their parents how to finish the FAFSA in five steps. Remember, in most cases the FAFSA is required to receive financial aid for college, so the sooner you get started, the better. Good luck!