About the FAFSA

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the basic application form that is required from any student who wishes to apply for federal financial aid. The FAFSA is the measuring stick for your EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. Your EFC is how much the government believes your family can contribute to your college tuition that year. If your EFC is less than the cost of attendance, you qualify for need-based aid. Many families qualify for need-based aid, but this can only be determined if you fill out the FAFSA. The FAFSA is also required when applying for unsubsidized Stafford Loans, Parent PLUS loans, and GradPLUS loans, none of which are need-based.

FAFSAIf you don’t file the FAFSA, you forfeit your chance to receive federal aid. This can mean leaving thousands of dollars in low-interest, potentially subsidized, federal loans on the table. Most colleges and universities also require the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for their own grants and scholarships.

Federal aid is limited and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so applying early is recommended. If an applicant has already submitted a FAFSA, that applicant can still submit a FAFSA for renewal or alteration to the previous information given. After review by a federal processor, the student will receive a Student Aid Report that summarizes the information provided on the FAFSA. If there are no errors, an electronic version is sent to the schools the student selected on the FAFSA.

Save up to 90% on your textbooks

Filing the FAFSA

Applicants can apply online through the U.S. Department of Education website, or complete a paper-application and mail it in, or they can refer to a professional fee-based preparer for assistance.

Need a private student loan? Compare your student loan options all in one place. SimpleTuition


FAFSA Topics

What are your financial aid options?