Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It determines a student’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid for college, which may include grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans. Filling out the FAFSA is now easier than ever (8 steps) and it takes less than a half hour to entirely fill out.
Why should a student, even one from a family that does not necessarily qualify for financial assistance, complete the FAFSA?
Many families don’t want to bother with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid because they have heard that only students from families earning less than about $50,000 get federal grants. But the FAFSA also qualifies students of all income levels for lots of other financial aid that is awarded no matter how much, or little, the family makes.
- To qualify for other kinds of scholarships and grants. Some financial aid programs require a FAFSA even though they award aid without regard to family income. Some colleges also use FAFSA information as a deciding factor for students who are on the borderline for merit scholarships. Some colleges, state agencies, and scholarship foundations require the FAFSA to award scholarships and grants to middle- and upper-middle-class students attending expensive schools. The most generous private colleges, for example, award need-based aid to some students from families earning more than $200,000 a year.
- To get cheap, forgivable federal loans. The FAFSA automatically qualifies the student for low-interest and forgivable federal student loans–the most attractive kind of student loans available. It also is the first step to qualify a parent for a federal parent PLUS loan, which can be used to help pay college costs.
- To gain an admissions edge. In some cases, filing a FAFSA can actually help a student gain admission to a college. Admissions officers generally know that students hoping for aid who don’t submit FAFSAs to the college are less likely to enroll. So some schools may not want to waste an admissions letter on a student they think is unlikely to attend.
FAFSA is the largest provider of grants, loans, and work-study funds. Parents may qualify for some of the lowest interest school loans available by starting with FAFSA. Federal Work-Study funds also require a FAFSA application. Finally, the Midland College Legacy Scholarship now requires completion of the FAFSA.