FAFSA For the Win (and how to finance college)

If you’ve been thinking about college for any length of time, you’ve heard of the FAFSA, but what is it and what is all about? FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and allows you to apply for federal scholarships, grants, work studies, and loans. Once you complete it, you’ll gain access to the largest collection of student aid to help you pay for your career training. 

FAFSA Qualifications

No matter what your family’s financial situation, take the time to fill out this form, because most families are at least eligible for non-need-based aid. Many schools, both public and private, issue scholarships and grants and use your FAFSA as a base for even merit-based aid. (Merit-based scholarships consider your grades, but also your leadership roles, extracurricular activities or community involvement..) In additional to federal funding and school funding, this application can also make state funds available to you.

If you’re a dependent, the FAFSA requires your own financial information and that of your parents or legal guardians. You’ll need your parent’s tax information from last year, and a list of any assets they hold. Here’s a complete list of what you’ll need to complete the form:

  • Your social security number (and your parents’ if you’re a dependent)
  • Your driver’s license if you have one
  • Your Alien Registration if you’re not a U.S citizen
  • Your tax returns (and your parents’ if you’re a dependent)
  • Records of untaxed income (and your parents’ if you’re a dependent)
  • Information on cash, savings and checking accounts, bonds, real estate holdings, and any business or farm assets (and your parents’ if you’re a dependent)

The FAFSA does not collect information or determine eligibility based on your race.

FAFSA Timeline

Each year on October 1, the application opens for financial aid for the following school year. Filling one out in October 2022 will allow you to pursue financing for the 2022-2023 academic year. You’ll have until June 30, 2023 to complete the application, but the sooner you apply, the more opportunities will still be available. You’ll want to be at the front of the line wherever possible, so complete this as soon as possible. 

Check your colleges’ financial aid deadline to ensure you complete your FAFSA in time. (Don’t forget to check your state’s financial aid deadlines!)

Student Aid Report (SAR)

Once your FAFSA form is complete, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). This outlines your expected family contribution and walks you through your estimated eligibility for federal loans and Federal Pell Grants. If you list schools on your FAFSA application, they’ll receive access to your SAR as well.. 

Repaying Your FAFSA Loans

Federal student aid recipients receive a 6-month grace period before they have to repay their loans. This grace period begins after you graduate, leave college, or fall below half-time enrollment.