The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ensures that you can benefit from federally funded financial assistance for education beyond high school if you meet eligibility requirements. Administrated by the U.S. Department of Education, federal student aid plays a central and essential role in supporting postsecondary education by providing money for qualified college students.
The FAFSA helps determine your eligibility for federal student aid programs along with state financial aid programs that may be available, including Pell Grants and work-study programs.
The application process begins on Oct. 1 each year. Some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so you are encouraged to complete a FAFSA application as soon as possible. If you are ready to begin your application, visit the FAFSA site.
Getting ready to fill out your FAFSA? Make sure you have several pieces of information handy when you start to fill out the form:
- Income taxes and deductions (including spouse's)
- Spouse's income
- Asset information
- Dependency status
- Household size
- List of schools you are interested in attending
- Income taxes and deductions
- Household assets
- Family members
The purpose of student financial aid is to provide resources to you if you would otherwise be unable to pursue a postsecondary education. The primary responsibility for meeting university costs lies with you and your family.
To receive financial assistance, you must be:
- Admitted to the university
- Enrolled in a program of study which leads to a degree or certificate
- In good academic standing
- Making satisfactory academic progress
If you are admitted to a degree program on a provisional or conditional basis, you may be eligible for financial assistance according to the university's admission policy. According to federal regulations, financial aid recipients must be U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens; must not owe a refund on grants previously received under the Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant or the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) program; or be in default on any federal student loans borrowed from federal funding.
The U.S. Department of Education awards about $150 billion a year in grants, work-study funds and low-interest loans to more than 15 million students. Federal student aid covers expenses such as tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies and transportation. Aid can also help pay for other related expenses, such as a computer and dependent care. Thousands of schools across the country participate in federal student aid programs.
If you qualify for and receive a federal grant, you typically do not have to repay the money, unless the requirements of the grant are not followed. This helps offset the cost of school, but you may still need additional help. If so, a federal student loan may be your answer. Remember, a student loan is just like any other loan: It is borrowed money that will have to be repaid with interest.
To learn more about budgeting, borrowing and repayment as well as review a glossary of terms, visit studentaid.ed.gov
Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about student loans, including information about repaying your loan.