Each year, the government doles out 150 billion dollars in education grants. Almost everyone can get some kind of aid, whether it's in the form of grants, loans, or work-study, whether it's from the government or from schools. All of this is determined by your answers to the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
There's a myth out there that the FAFSA provides only grants that do not have to be paid back. This isn't the case. Eligibility for Perkins loans, Stafford loans, and work-study programs are all determined through filling out the FAFSA application. Still billions of Pell Grant money goes unclaimed each year.
Find out more about filling out the FAFSA in my free ebook, Need Based Scholarships; FAFSA Information and Tips for Busy Parents. Download it here.
When do I fill out the FAFSA?
Each year, you'll fill out the FAFSA beginning October 1. The earlier you fill it out, the better. Even though there's a lot of aid available, you'll have access to more aid if you complete it sooner. Even if your family hasn't yet filed taxes when you apply, you can use estimated tax numbers to avoid delay.
Do I have to fill out the FAFSA more than once?
The FAFSA must be filled out every year your student is in school, beginning when they are a Senior in high school for their Freshman year in college. Filling out the FAFSA is how schools evaluate how much money to give to you. Whether you're eligible for grant money (which doesn't have to be paid back) or eligible for loans, or even work study programs, you'll want to fill out this document to give schools a picture of your need. Of course, your child will still be eligible for private scholarships from the school in addition to any aid listed on the FAFSA.
How do I fill out the FAFSA?
If you would like to have step-by-step instructions on how to fill out the FAFSA and what it will look like, read my full article, 9 Secrets to Effortlessly Finish the FAFSA.
The FAFSA applies to both undergraduate and graduate studies.
No matter how wealthy your family is, you should fill out the application. This infographic from Personal Income shows some basic facts about the FAFSA.
Is that all I need to know to fill out the FAFSA?
The information in this blog post will get you far in filling out the FAFSA. However, as you go through the process, you may find that more questions arise. You can find out all you'll need to know about the FAFSA and need based scholarships, and download my free ebook, in this post, Need Based Scholarships.
To start your application, visit the FAFSA government site. You also have the option of completing it over the phone, on paper, or hiring a fee-based service. Though there are many questions, the Department of Education estimates that on average, it takes less than 21 minutes to complete. It may take you longer (it sure took me longer!) but it's well worth the time.
FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Education