How Does the FAFSA Work?

Overview 👓

Welcome 🙌 Today we’re going to be giving you a quick introduction to what the FAFSA is, as well as going into depth on how it works. So buckle up 🚗, and let’s get started!

Loans vs. Grants

First order of business: What are loans and what are grants 🤔 Both of these give you money to pay for college.

Based on financial need (not your academic ability!), you will be GIFTED a grant. That means you don’t have to pay it back; that money is yours 🤗

On the other hand, for a loan, you need to pay it back by the deadline 📆 your lender set. Here’s where the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, comes in. Federal student loans are given by the government, while private student loans are given by banks or credit unions (non-government).

Read more about college debt and how much is too much with this article.

How Does FAFSA Work? 🧐

Quick Introduction 👋

Okay, so we know you need to fill out the FAFSA for federal student loans. The FAFSA is a form that you fill out 📝 with your financial background. It will determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), or an estimate for how much you and your family will be able to pay for your education 🏫, and then determine how much aid you’ll receive.

According to the US Department of Education, 13 million students fill out the FAFSA each year and receive 🤲 $120 billion in aid!

For more details check out exactly what FAFSA is and how it can help you.

Filling Out the FAFSA ✒️

The FAFSA is available on October 1, but you should fill it out ASAP because aid is first-come, first-serve ☝️ The deadline is June 30, so be sure you’re keeping an eye 👀 on important dates.

Checkout this scholarship and FAFSA tracker to help you stay on top of everything!

You HAVE to fill out the FAFSA to be eligible for ANY financial aid! It is free to fill out for all students 😱

Each academic year you want to receive aid, you MUST fill out the FAFSA. So, if you want to receive FAFSA for each year of college, you must fill it out before each year.

Image from Road2College

Should I Fill the FAFSA Out?

Yes! EVERY student going to college should fill out the FAFSA. If you don’t, you won’t 🙅‍♀️ be eligible for a lot of student aid. Even if your family isn’t low income, you could still be qualified to receive aid, such as automatically being eligible for a low-interest federal loan 📋 by submitting the FAFSA.

Check out the FAFSA’s basic eligibility requirements to qualify for student aid.

To learn more about the application process and how to fill it out checkout How to Apply to FAFSA.

How Much Aid Will I Receive from FAFSA? 💸

As mentioned before, you should fill out the FAFSA ASAP. Since aid is given by first come, first serve, students who submit it early have a better chance of receiving more money 💰

According to Edmit, 4 factors determine how much aid you’ll receive:

  1. Your year 📅 in school
  2. Your enrollment status (full-time vs. part-time)
  1. Full-time enrollment - You enrolled in at least 12 credits per semester
  2. Part-time enrollment - You’ enrolled in at least 6 credits per semester
  1. Cost of Attendance - How much it’ll cost to attend a certain college for a year, including tuition, textbooks 📚, dorms, etc.
  2. Expected Family Contribution - How much your family can pay for your education each year

What Kind of Aid Will I Receive? 🎯

Since you already know the difference between loans and grants, let’s talk about what kind of aid you can get from the FAFSA.

  • Grants - Completely need-based + don’t need to be paid back
  • Scholarships - Merit-based (based on your academic performance) + don’t need to be paid back
  • Make sure to do your own college scholarship search as well to help.
  • Check out these top 40 national college scholarships.
  • Loans - Need to be paid back with interest
  • Work-study programs - Pay back loans by working a part-time job 👩‍🎓 at your college campus

What’s Next? 🚀

Alright, you’ve completed your FAFSA form on time. You will receive your Student Aid Report, a document 📄 that summarizes all the information you entered on the FAFSA. You should also let the colleges you’re applying to know that you want financial aid; be sure to fill out any extra school-related documents 📥

You will receive a letter 📃 in a few months after submission, so make sure you apply or deny the aid before the deadline.

Checkout this article to learn more about financial aid and paying for college.

Final Thoughts on FAFSA ✌️

Hooray! You’ve made it to the end of this article 👏 You should better understand what FAFSA is, how to fill out the forms, and what kind of aid you’ll receive 🤝

Good luck on your college journey, and be sure to check out more articles from Fiveable for additional resources 👯‍♀️

Guide Outline

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