The term FAFSA means Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is a form that is completed on a yearly basis by graduate and undergraduate students to ascertain their eligibility for federal student financial aid. Applications are accepted on the first day of January every year by the Department of Education. If an applicant had previously completed a FAFSA they can still fill out a renewal FAFSA, however, applicants must update their savings and tax information annually.
The application contains several questions related to the applicant’s financial status as well as that of his or her family. The information the applicant provides is keyed into a formula that calculates what is called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is determined by a number of factors, some of which include income, size of the household, how many students from the home is attending college and assets. This is vital as it reveals how much parents will contribute towards their child’s education. Questions related to ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability is not included in the application.
Responses from the FAFSA are summarized in what is called a Student Aid Report (SAR), and is then sent to the student. When the student receives the report he or she will review the information to ensure it is represented correctly. Any college or university that the student has selected on the FAFSA will have an electronic copy of the Student Aid Report. This electronic copy is called an ISIR. State agencies that award state need based assistance also get copies of the ISIR. It is important that students complete the FAFSA as quickly as possible because aids are given on a first come first served basis. This will help strengthen the applicant’s consideration for maximum financial aid.
Financial aid is available to practically every student. However, students who may not be eligible for need based assistance may still have the opportunity to secure an unsubsidized Stafford Loan irrespective of circumstances or income. Students who meet the following criteria may be eligible for financial assistance
- Student is a United States citizen, a United States National, or an eligible non-citizen;
- Student has a valid Social Security number (SSN);
- Student has a GED or high school diploma or pass an Ability-to-Benefit test (this is related to for adult students);
- Male students between the ages of 18 to 25 and is registered with the United States Selective Service;
- Student obtains and completes a FAFSA promising to use any federal aid for education purposes;
- Student does not owe refunds on any federal student grants;
- Student has not defaulted on any student loans he or she has received;
- During the award of federal aid the student has not been found guilty of the sale or possession of illegal drugs.