What is the FAFSA?

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first key step in applying for financial aid. The FAFSA is a questionnaire created by the Federal government that determines a family’s eligibility for federal financial aid programs such as the Pell grant, Perkins and Stafford loans, and federal work study. However, many states, scholarship programs, and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine whether a family needs financial assistance to attend college, and how much. You must fill out a new FAFSA each year that you plan to apply for financial aid.

What type of questions does the FAFSA ask?

The goal of the FAFSA is to understand a family’s financial situation in a given tax year. It will ask questions such as:

• What was the total income of the household? This includes both student and parent/legal guardian income.

• What assets are owned by members of the household?

• How many people are in the household of the family applying for aid?

• How many of those people are college students?

Fill out the FAFSA Early

The FAFSA is available and should be completed January 1st of the year that the student plans on attending college. So, rising seniors who will graduate with the class of 2014 will be able to fill out the FAFSA starting January 1st, 2014. Current seniors in the class of 2013 also have time to fill out the FAFSA for Fall 2013 or Spring 2014—but should complete the form right away!

A family should fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st. Many colleges have financial aid deadlines in early February, and submitting financial aid paperwork late may cause a delay in receiving a financial aid award. The FAFSA is available online and most families complete and submit the form this way. It is available in both English and Spanish. Keep in mind that the FAFSA is free—a student should never be asked to pay to complete the FAFSA.

Check out this video from the U.S. Department of Education on completing the FAFSA.

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About Chloe Woodward-Magrane

Chloe Woodward-Magrane is the Coordinator, College & Career Readiness at District of Columbia Public Schools. Previous to joining DCPS, she was a college admissions officer at Barnard College in New York City.

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