What is a FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is used by the U.S. Department of Education to determine how much your family will be expected to pay towards your education. The application process examines such aspects as your income, living expenses, dependency status, and more.

Why do I need a FAFSA?

The FAFSA starts the eligibility process for most types of student aid including federal, state, and school-sponsored loans, scholarships, and grants. This process is used by most colleges and universities to determine whether or not you qualify for financial aid and for which types you qualify.

Where can I find a FAFSA?

You can apply online at the FAFSA website or you can receive a paper form through your school, a public library, or a high school or by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center and requesting one at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or TTY 1-800-730-8913. Applying online is the recommended method as you will have access to immediate online help and calculation tools, can check for errors as you go, and will get much faster results.

There are places that charge a fee to help me with my FAFSA. Should I use one of those?

No, there are plenty of reputable places on the Internet to get quality help completing your FAFSA. In addition to the FAFSA site, you can also find free guides, ebooks, and tips. Remember, the first F in FAFSA stands for "free."

What supporting documents will I need to submit along with my FAFSA?

According to the FAFSA Documents Needed section, you will need your social security number, driver’s license, W-2 forms from the previous year, your federal tax return from the previous year (and your spouse’s if you are married), your parents’ federal tax return from the previous year (if you are a dependent), your untaxed income records from the previous year, current bank statements, current business and investment records, and your alien registration card or permanent resident card (if you are not a U.S. citizen).

When do I need to submit my FAFSA?

The soonest you can submit your FAFSA application is January 1 of the upcoming award year (which runs July 1st to June 30th) for which you are applying and the latest you can apply is March 1. Watch the deadlines carefully as some states have earlier deadlines. Most experts recommend that you file as soon as possible to ensure that you can get as much financial aid as you are eligible to receive.

How long will it take before I hear back?

If you submitted your application online, then you can expect to get your results in about three to five days. If you submitted a paper form, you can expect to receive your SAR in about four weeks.

How can I check the status of my FAFSA?

If you filed your application online, then wait three to five days (seven to ten if you mailed a paper form), then go to the FAFSA website where you can click on "Check Status of a Submitted FAFSA or Print Signature Page" under the "FAFSA Follow-up" section. You will then follow the prompts to enter your information and check the status of your application.

What is a SAR?

The SAR is a Student Aid Report and is what you will receive as a result of submitting your FAFSA. The SAR summarizes your information from the FAFSA and is what goes out to the schools you designated to receive information to determine if you qualify for financial aid.

What is an EFC?

Your EFC, or Expected Family Contribution, is the number computed from your FAFSA to determine what your family should pay toward your education. The calculation to come up with your EFC is based on such aspects as income, assets, family expenses, and number of students in college.

What do I do next after receiving the results of my FAFSA?

The first thing you should do is check your SAR for accuracy. If you need to make any changes, you can log on to the FAFSA website to make any necessary changes. A corrected SAR will be mailed to you within a few days. Next, you should wait to receive award letters from the schools you designated on your FAFSA. You should check over these offers carefully to select the one that suits your needs the best.