Introduction to FAFSA

Before we delve into what FAFSA is we need to know what it means, FAFSA means Free Application for Federal Student Aid, it is a form completed by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid. The FAFSA is the U.S. Department of Education’s formal application to apply for higher education financial aid. This form helps you understand your eligibility for federal financial aid, from grants and scholarships to student loans and work-study. Many states also use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for state-funded financial aid programs. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was first introduced through the 1965 Higher Education Act (HEA) signed by President Lyndon Johnson, which designated the United States Government as the main source of financial assistance for students.

History of FAFSA

As we said earlier FAFSA originally came from the 1965 Higher Education Act (HEA) by President Lyndon Johnson, this established the United States Government as the primary provider of financial aid for students. It was originally called the Financial Aid Form (FAF) which was an optional form not mandated to be used in all higher learning institutions. In 1992 congress reapproved the HEA and made the Financial Aid Form a standardized form called FAFSA, the stated intention of the program was to establish equitable opportunities for students pursuing higher education.

Types of Federal Financial Aid

The majority of students who qualify for federal aid and submit the FAFSA will be awarded some type of financial assistance, irrespective of their financial circumstances.

The Pell Grant

The Pell Grant provides up to $6,195 for students with a low expected family contribution. A recent study revealed that students missed out on $2.6 billion in free federal Pell grants by not completing the FAFSA.

The Federal Supplementary Education Opportunity Grant (FESOG)

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) offers between $100 to $4,000 for eligible undergraduate students. This grant is limited and is typically awarded to those who complete their FAFSA early.

Federal Direct Loans

There are two types of federal direct loans namely the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan and the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, we explain their differences below:

Federal Direct Subsidized Loans are part of the Federal Direct Student Loan Program and have fixed interest rates. The government pays the interest while the student is enrolled at least half time.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are also part of the Federal Direct Student Loan Program and accrue interest immediately. These loans are not need-based and have fixed interest rates set yearly by the U.S. Congress.

Federal Work-Study Program

The Federal Work-Study Program encourages students with low expected family contributions to work part-time while studying. The program subsidizes a portion of the student’s wages for eligible positions.

Eligibility For Financial Aid

Filling a FAFSA form gives you access to the following federal financial aid programs:
1) Maintain a satisfactory academic progress (SAP).
2) Be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or an eligible non-citizen.
3) Possess a valid Social Security number.
4) Hold a high school diploma or GED.
5) Sign the certification statement affirming that you are not in default on a federal student loan and do not owe money on a federal student grant, and that any federal student aid received will solely be used for educational purposes.

How to Apply for FAFSA

To apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you should follow these steps:

  1. Create an Account:
    Go to the official FAFSA website
    Register for an account and get an FSA ID (a combination of a username and password). You can use your FSA ID right away to sign and submit your initial FAFSA form. However, for other purposes, you will have to wait up to three days for confirmation from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
  2. Gather important Information:
    Your Social Security number
    Your federal income tax returns (or W-2 forms) for the most recent year
    Records of untaxed income (such as child support or veterans’ benefits)
    Information about your assets (such as savings and investments)
    List of schools you are considering attending
  3. Complete the FAFSA:
    Initiate the FAFSA application online.
    Complete the form using the information you have gathered. Having everything prepared in advance will streamline the process.
    The FAFSA assists in determining your eligibility for federal student aid, which includes grants, loans, and work-study programs.
  4. Check Your Application Status:
    Once you have submitted your FAFSA, verify its status to ensure that it has been processed.
    Sign in to your account at fafsa.gov or get in touch with the Federal Student Aid Information Center.
    If you submitted a paper FAFSA form, you can check its status 7–10 days after mailing it.

Important Links

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David Brown

He is a writer covering financial news and trends. He has over 7 years of experience as a finance writer. He and his team are dedicated in providing a comprehensive resource for students and parents to make choices based on accurate and latest information in the student loan space.

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