FAFSA® 2023-24: Everything to Know
- The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is essential for government distribution of student aid — everything from subsidized federal loans to Pell Grants to university scholarships.
- How likely you are to qualify for financial aid depends on your unique situation and may be determined by financial need.
- There are three important FAFSA deadlines to keep in mind: the federal deadline, your state deadline, and your school's deadline.
For many college students, the hunt for financial aid begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, FAFSA has been connecting students with funding for decades. A FAFSA form is essential for government distribution of student aid — everything from subsidized federal loans to Pell Grants to university scholarships.
Here are answers to some of your most pressing questions about the FAFSA form.
What is FAFSA?
Federal and state governments, colleges and universities all use financial details from your FAFSA form to award loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study positions.
You'll need to fill out and submit your FAFSA form to qualify for all kinds of funding, including Pell Grants, Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), and needs-based scholarships.
To complete your FAFSA form, start by visiting studentaid.gov to create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Once you have an FSA ID, you'll need to gather your personal and financial information. You'll be asked to provide important details like your Social Security and driver's license numbers, as well as documentation of your federal tax returns, bank balances, investments, and assets. If you're a dependent student, your parents will also be required to provide this information.
What are the FAFSA requirements?
FAFSA eligibility is limited to American citizens or qualified non-citizens who demonstrate financial need and are enrolled in a degree or certificate program at a college, university, or career training school. Applicants must also hold a high school diploma or a GED certificate or have completed a high school level education in a state-approved homeschool program.
What are the FAFSA income limits?
How likely you are to qualify for financial aid depends on your unique situation and may be determined by financial need.
The federal government considers financial need to be the difference between your school's cost of attendance (COA) and your expected family contribution (EFC). Your EFC is calculated based on the information provided in your FAFSA form according to a standard formula. It's used to determine how much and what type of aid you'll receive.
It's important to note that the FAFSA process is not restricted by income. You should submit the FAFSA form regardless of your financial need. Even if you or your family is in a high tax bracket, your EFC may be low enough to earn you some funding. Additionally, certain programs, like Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS loans, aren't needs-based. Yet, these programs may still use your FAFSA application to award aid.
When does the FAFSA process open?
The U.S. Department of Education generally opens the FAFSA process on the same date each year: October 1. Be sure to complete the form as soon as you can — otherwise, you could miss out on programs with limited funding.
When is the FAFSA deadline for 2023-24?
There are three separate deadlines for your 2023-24 FAFSA form: the federal deadline, your state's deadline, and your school's deadline.
- Federal deadline: June 30, 2024
- State deadline: Each state sets its own deadline, which you can find on the FAFSA website. These dates differ, but generally fall earlier than the federal deadline.
- School deadlines: These deadlines vary by school and typically occur earlier than both federal and state cutoff dates, so be sure to check the website for your college or university.
Many schools also set a priority deadline. Submit your application by this date to potentially maximize the amount of financial assistance you'll receive.
How long does the FAFSA process take?
Once you've submitted your FAFSA form, you can expect a response in three to ten days. Once processed, the U.S. Department of Education issues your Student Aid Report (SAR), which contains an overview of your financial information as well as your EFC.
It's important to note that your SAR describes your eligibility for financial aid. However, it isn't the same as a financial aid offer. Financial aid packages are compiled and disbursed by each school. You can generally expect to receive your complete offer, including the amount and type of federal, state and school funding, alongside your admissions letter.
Remember, the details and deadlines are important to help set yourself up for federal, state and university student aid and loans. Since the bucket of aid is limited, you have to meet the deadlines, so it's best to file your FAFSA form as soon as you're able.
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