What’s the big deal about the FAFSA?

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the key you need to unlock money that will help you pay for the costs of college, vocational school or career school. It’s simply a statement about a family’s financial situation, and it’s used to determine how much federal financial aid you may be eligible to receive. A new FAFSA is available October 1 each year. For high school seniors, this means your FAFSA is ready to submit now, almost a year before you begin college! You can submit your FAFSA even if you haven’t applied to any schools yet. In fact, if you’re not sure which school you want to attend, you can request that your FAFSA information be shared with up to 10 different schools that you may want to learn more about.

The current FAFSA is available online at StudentAid.gov. If you’d like a sneak peek at the FAFSA, take a look at the FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) Worksheet. It lists most of the questions from the FAFSA, giving you an idea of what you’ll need to have with you when you begin to complete the form. Please keep in mind that the FOTW worksheet is not a replacement for the real FAFSA. You’ll still need to complete the actual form online on or after October 1 in order to apply for financial aid. The FAFSA for school year 2023-24 will ask for income information from 2021.

Approximately 1.7 million high school seniors didn’t submit a FAFSA for the 2020-21 school year, and nearly half of those who didn’t file were eligible for a Pell grant, which is gift aid that generally doesn’t have to be repaid. The National College Attainment Network (NCAN) reports that in that same year, $3.7 billion dollars in federal financial aid for college was left unclaimed by students who would have been qualified to receive the aid, simply because they didn’t submit a FAFSA.

Don’t ever assume that you won’t qualify for financial aid. There is no maximum income limit. You’ll never know what you’re eligible for unless you submit the application.