The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA, is a special type of assistance program that helps students pay for their education. Through this program, graduate and undergraduate students can apply for grants, scholarships, loans and work-study opportunities. To find out if they qualify for financial aid through the state or federal government, students complete and submit this free application.
On the FAFSA application, students must prove they fulfill basic eligibility requirements, as well as other criteria depending on their specific situation. General eligibility requirements include enrollment in a degree or certificate program at the time of application, as well as U.S. citizenship or lawful residency. To learn more about applying for federal student aid, as well as the general eligibility requirements all applicants must meet, review the information below.
What is FAFSA and how can it benefit me?
If students meet basic FAFSA eligibility requirements, they may qualify for funding to pay for their college education. This includes grants and scholarships, as well as federal student loans. Work-study programs are also available to qualifying students who wish to earn money for college while working a part-time job. Each of these options helps students to reach their college goals, even if they cannot afford to pay for their education out-of-pocket.
Claimants may qualify for several FAFSA grants, such as the following:
- The Federal Pell Grant
- The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service grants
FAFSA loans are available to students who do not qualify for grants or scholarships, as well as to those who need additional money to pay for their schooling. Different types of federal loans include the Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, Direct PLUS and Direct Consolidation loans. Unlike grants and scholarships, students are required to repay loans with interest. However, interest rates for these loans through FAFSA are typically lower than those for most private loans.
When students apply for FAFSA, they can also apply for a federal work-study job. Typically, qualifying students can work part-time while attending college on a full- or part-time basis, helping them to earn money for school.
Eligibility Requirements for FAFSA
When submitting a financial aid application, students must prove that they meet certain qualifications. As part of these requirements, applicants must:
- Be able to demonstrate financial need.
- Be a U.S. citizen or qualifying non-citizen.
- Have a valid Social Security Number (SSN), unless they are exempt from meeting this requirement.
- Be enrolled in an eligible college degree or certificate program.
- Register for Selective Service if they are:
- Between 18 and 25 years of age.
Another important FAFSA requirement is proof of high school completion, such as a diploma or GED. Applicants may also qualify through completion a career pathway program in lieu of a GED or diploma. However, they must first speak with their school’s financial aid counselor to obtain specific information.
Note: After receiving FAFSA grants or loans to pay for one year of schooling, students must maintain satisfactory academic progress in order to maintain eligibility. If students do not meet these academic standards, they may lose their eligibility for the next year.
How to Complete a FAFSA Application
“How do you apply for FAFSA benefits?” is a commonly-asked question amongst students and parents alike. To get started, claimants may obtain an application if they wish to complete a paper form, or they can apply online. Either way, applications must be submitted before the state’s financial aid deadline, which varies widely throughout the U.S.
The specific financial aid application process varies depending on whether the parent or student submits the form. However, every claimant needs to provide details about the following:
- The student’s FSA ID (if a student does not have an ID, he or she must create one before applying online)
- The student’s personal information, such as his or her Social Security Number (SSN), name, date of birth and dependency status
- The name or federal code of each school the student wishes to send his or her financial aid application to (up to a maximum 10 schools)
- Demographic information about the student’s parent(s)
- Tax and financial information
If completing a paper form, students must mail the completed application to the address below. It is also important for claimants to keep a copy for their personal records.
Federal Student Aid Programs
P.O. Box 7650
London, KY 40742-7650
After applying for FAFSA, candidates receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). After receiving their SAR and reviewing it for errors, applicants may choose to make corrections to their application. However, the SAR does not include eligibility information or details about official financial aid awards. Students typically receive this information directly from their school or college.
How much money can I get from FAFSA?
After submitting a FAFSA application, a student’s total benefit amount varies depending on the type of grant he or she qualifies for, as well as the school he or she plans to attend. While some students may qualify for more grant money than others, maximum grant amounts for the 2019-2020 award year include the following:
- Federal Pell Grant: $6,195
- FSEOG: $4,000
- TEACH Grant: $3,752
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant: $5,717
If undergraduates qualify for FAFSA students loans, the maximum amount of money they can borrow varies by type of loan, college grade level and dependency status. For the Direct Loan or Federal Perkins Loan, annual borrowing limits range between $5,500 and $12,500.
To help applicants calculate their federal student aid award, they may use the online FAFSA4caster planning tool. This planning tool is available to middle and high school students, as well as to adult students to estimate the amount of aid they qualify for based on the information they provide.
Do you have to pay back FAFSA benefits?
If students use FAFSA loans to pay for their schooling, they need to repay the full amount of their loan, as well as interest. To do so, beneficiaries may enroll in a traditional payment plan such as a standard, graduated or extended repayment plan. Some may qualify for an income-based repayment plan, depending on their situation. Various types of income-driven plans include the following:
- Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment (REPAYE)
- Pay as You Earn (PAYE)
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
As another option, FAFSA student loan beneficiaries may choose to repay all or part of the loan early, as there is no penalty to do so. If beneficiaries cannot afford to make payments on their student loan, however, they may postpone the repayment of their loan by qualifying for a loan forbearance or deferment.
Note: If you participate in a FAFSA work study program, you can make payments on your loan as you work and earn your degree or certificate. As part of this program, you will earn the current federal minimum wage. It is also possible to earn more depending on your skills and qualifications.