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The Basics of the FAFSA: Free Application for Student Aid

College is expensive. Thankfully, there are many ways to fund a college education, including various types of “free” money in the form of grants or scholarships. This is money you are not expected to pay back. Submitting a FAFSA is the primary tool to explore such types of funding.

This video from Better Money Habits walks you through what a FAFSA is and what it can do for you:

What is a FAFSA? 

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is constructed and distributed by the federal government. Using collected information about a family’s income, housing status, number of family members, and more, it generates an Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). This is a number that the government believes the family is able to afford and determines the amount of federal student aid available.

Is it worth paying for assistance in filling out a FAFSA?

No! You should never pay for assistance in filling out a FAFSA. For one, it is rather straightforward. Second, it says “free” in the name for a reason. If you search FAFSA, often the first result that pops up is a .com website that charges you money to help you fill out the form. FAFSA.ed.gov is where you can access the form for free. 

Who should file a FAFSA?

Everyone should! While it’s no guarantee that you’ll receive scholarships or grants, you might be offered federal loans which have much lower interest rates and repayment flexibility than private student loans. Check out this blog to read more about the differences between federal and other types of loans. 

What happens after you submit one?

The information and EFC as determined by the government are passed on to colleges who then determine financial aid packages. The point of the FAFSA is to provide colleges and universities with a uniform way of looking at the financial situation of an applicant or current student. Once you fill one out and receive an EFC from the government, make sure it’s in line with your expectations. If it seems off, you might have filled out something incorrectly.

The FAFSA is received ahead of time of admissions decisions so that, when colleges come across applicants they want to accept, they can call down to the financial aid office and ask about the EFC. Schools then decide what sort of financial aid package they will offer to the student. The packages can vary greatly between schools, so it’s important to do your research on how a school tends to award aid.

What’s the difference between need-blind and need-sensitive schools?

Regardless of whether or not you apply for aid has no impact on admissions decisions of need-blind schools. Need-blind schools will fund you to 100 percent of your demonstrated need based on the information in your FAFSA if they decide they want to accept you.

Need-sensitive schools, on the other hand, take into account financial need when making admissions decisions. For example, a high-achieving, low-income student is likely to be accepted and receive substantial funding. If you’re a student that’s not as strong, you might still get accepted, but not necessarily get a whole lot of aid. Colleges might have a lot of choices in the academic achievement range that you’re in, making you less attractive for a recipient of financial aid.

The better of an academic position that you put yourself in, the better your financial aid options are likely to be.


Don't know what a FAFSA is? Read here about what it is and what it can do for you #BetterMoneyHabits >> http://bit.ly/2xuGsvI 

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