Your FAFSA Questions Answered

06/30/2015 04:35 pm ET | Updated Jun 30, 2016

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is available to anyone who is considering graduate or undergraduate studies in the United States. The FAFSA is used by colleges and universities to determine eligibility for student aid.

What Is The FAFSA?

The FAFSA is a free online form that gives applicants access to grants, loans, and work study funds from the federal government. Also, colleges and universities use the FAFSA to make decisions about student financial aid requests.

When Must I Complete The FAFSA?

The FAFSA must be completed before you enter your first year of schooling and each year thereafter. The reason it must be filed every year is because your financial situation may change from year to year.

Do I Have To Provide Income Tax Information On The FASFA?

Some US Federal Income Tax information is required to complete the FAFSA. This information can be accessed automatically through the IRS. Estimated tax numbers can be entered if your taxes haven’t been filed yet.

When Is The FAFSA Filing Deadline?

There is no universal deadline for filing. Instead, each academic institution sets up its own filling calendar. The best advice is to file the FAFSA as early as possible. This is especially important since some funds are available on a first-come first-serve basis. The earliest you can apply is on January 1 for any given school year.

How Much Student Aid Will I Get For Filling Out The FAFSA?

Each school has its own formula for determining financial need. The calculation is made by taking the total cost of education minus the amount your family can pay towards education (Estimated Family Contribution or EFC). Wages and other sources of income are taken into account when calculating the EFC.

What Sources Of Student Aid Require The FAFSA?

All sources of federal student aid require that you submit the FAFSA. State student aid providers also use the application. Private scholarships and lenders also typically require information found on the FAFSA.

Where Do I Get The Forms To Fill Out The FAFSA?

You can fill out the application online or use a paper form.

What Are The Eligibility Requirements?

Nearly anybody can apply for student aid. The amount of aid you receive depends on the available funds and your need. According to the Office of the US Department of Education, to be eligible you must:

  • Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States.
  • Have a valid Social Security Number.
  • Have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or have completed homeschooling. If you don’t, you may still be eligible for federal student aid if you were enrolled in college or career school prior to July 1, 2012.
  • Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate.
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
  • Not owe a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a federal student loan.
  • Register (or already be registered) with the Selective Service System, if you are a male and not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Not have a conviction for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, work-study, or loans). If you have such a conviction, you must complete the Student Aid Eligibility Worksheet to determine if you are eligible for aid or partially eligible for aid.

Get More Information

To get more information about the FAFSA, or to fill out the form online, visit the Federal Student Aid FAFSA website.

For more options of financial aid, visit Credible's student loan marketplace to find the best private loans to help fund your education.