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While we are not affiliated with the government in any way, our private company engaged writers to research the LIHEAP program and compiled a guide and the following answers to frequently asked questions. Our goal is to help you get the benefits that you need by providing useful information on the process.

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About Us

We are not affiliated with the government in any way. We are a private company that engaged writers to research the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and compiled a guide and the following answers to frequently asked questions. Our goal is to help you get the benefits that you need by providing useful information on the process. We are not providing legal or financial advice. If you need such advice please contact an attorney or a financial advisor.

What Is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a federal document that must be completed by college students and their families to apply for any type of financial aid. The FAFSA helps the Department of Education, state colleges, career schools, and private organizations determine the types and amounts of financial aid that a student is eligible to receive.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Learn more about the FAFSA on the Federal Student Aid website here.

What Types of Financial Aid Are Available?

There are several types of financial aid available to qualifying students, including:

  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Student loans
  • The Federal Work-Study Program
  • Aid for military families
  • Aid for international study

Grants are a form of financial aid that, in most cases, does not need to be repaid. There are various types of grants available to students, and each grant has its own eligibility requirements.

For example, Federal Pell Grants are based on financial need and only awarded to undergraduate students. While grants do not generally need to be repaid, you may be required to repay part or all of a federal grant if:

  • You withdraw early from the program that you received a grant for
  • Your enrollment status changed in a way that would alter your eligibility for the grant or the amount you received
  • If you received other grants or scholarships that would reduce your financial need
  • If you received a TEACH Grant, but did not meet the qualifications outlined in your TEACH Grant service obligation

You can learn more about grants here.

Scholarships are another type of student financial aid that does not generally need to be repaid. Scholarships are provided by private organizations, nonprofits, and schools to qualifying students. Eligibility requirements for scholarships vary by the scholarship program but may be based upon financial need, talent, a specific field of study, or academic merit. Other scholarships are awarded to specific groups of people, such as women, single mothers, or graduate students.

When applying for a scholarship, it is important to verify that a scholarship is legitimate. You do not need to pay to apply for a scholarship or other forms of financial aid.

You can learn more about scholarship opportunities from resources such as:

  • The financial aid office of a career school, college, or university
  • A high school counselor
  • The U.S. Department of Labor's free scholarship search tool, located here
  • Through religious or community organizations, local businesses, and foundations
  • Through ethnicity-based organizations
  • Your local library
  • Your state's grant agency found here

Learn more about scholarships here.

Student loans are money that must be repaid with interest. You can take out a loan with the federal government or other institutions such as banks and other financial organizations. Loan terms, including repayment plans, interest rates, and the maximum amount you can borrow, vary. Applying for a loan through a private institution may require a credit check or may have a higher interest rate compared to a loan borrowed from the federal government. If you choose to borrow from the federal government, certain careers have paths towards loan forgiveness.

Learn more about student loans here.

The Federal Work-Study Program lets students earn money to pay for school by working part-time while attending school. This program is available to both part-time and full-time students who have a financial need. The program is administered by schools that participate in the Federal Work-Study Program. The amount that you can earn through the Federal Work-Study Program is, at minimum, the amount of the current federal minimum wage.

Depending on the type of work you perform and the skills required for the position, you may be able to earn more. Your total award amount can also depend on:

  • Your school's funding
  • Your financial need
  • The date that you apply for aid

Learn more about the Federal Work-Study Program here.

Aid for military families includes special programs that are offered to qualifying military service personnel or the children or spouse of a veteran. Available aid includes scholarships, grants, special loan programs, and other forms of financial aid.

You can learn more about financial aid for military families here.

Aid for international study is available for certain students that wish to study at an international school through a study-abroad program. Study-abroad programs are available through participating U.S. schools. To obtain financial aid for one of these programs, your school must participate in the program. The study-abroad programs' applications can be lengthier, so it is important to apply as soon as possible.

You can learn more about aid for international study here.

How Much Assistance Does FAFSA Provide?

The information you must provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid will determine the amount and type of financial aid you can receive. The amount of assistance you can receive is primarily determined by your cost of attendance (COA) and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Your cost of attendance is the  -amount it will cost you to attend school for the year or semester. If you are enrolled at least half-time, your cost of attendance estimate will include:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Living expenses or room and board
  • Transportation, supplies, books, and other miscellaneous fees
  • Child care or other dependent care
  • Costs related to a disability, if applicable
  • Reasonable expenses related to study-abroad programs, if applicable

Your Expected Family Contribution is based on the income, assets, and benefits that you and your family receive. The EFC also considers your household size and the number of family members that intend to attend college during the applicable year.

Once your COA and EFC have been calculated, your financial need is determined by subtracting your EFC from your COA. You cannot receive more financial aid than your FAFSA determines financial need. Financial aid programs that are considered need-based include:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Direct Subsidized Loan
  • Federal Work-Study Program
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

You can learn more about how the amount of federal student aid you can receive is calculated here.

How to Qualify for Federal Student Aid

To qualify for federal student aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before each school year and meet basic eligibility requirements. To qualify for federal student aid, you must:

  • Be a United States citizen or a qualifying noncitizen
  • Have a financial need (for most programs)
  • Have a valid Social Security number or have an exception
  • Register with Selective Service if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25
  • Be accepted for enrollment or enrolled in a qualifying certificate program or for an eligible degree
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress
  • Be qualified to obtain a career school or college education

Students who are not U.S. citizens, who have criminal convictions, or have intellectual disabilities must meet additional eligibility requirements.

Learn more about federal student aid eligibility requirements here.

How to Apply for Federal Student Aid

To apply for federal student aid, complete the following three steps:

1. Review the application requirements and gather documentation necessary to complete your FAFSA application.

Learn what documents you need here.

2. Choose how you are going to apply, whether online, by mail, or in person.

To apply for federal financial aid online, click here to begin the online FAFSA form.

To apply for federal financial aid by mail, complete the FAFSA form here and mail your completed form to:

Federal Student Aid Programs

            PO Box 7654

            London, KY 40742-7654

To apply for federal financial aid in person, visit the financial aid office at the school or college you will be attending.

3. Submit your application.

If you have any questions about the application process or require assistance, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1 (800) 433-3243. You can also email or chat online with the FSAIC here. Or, contact your school's financial aid office for assistance.

What Are the Deadlines to Complete Your FAFSA Form?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is available before the start of each school year. In 2021 and 2022, the form was available starting October 1st. However, it is important to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible because some schools and states have limited funds and run out of financial aid early. The sooner you can apply for federal student aid, the better.

Click here to learn more about FAFSA deadlines.

What Happens After You Are Approved

After you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, your school's financial aid office will send you a letter that includes the financial aid that is available to you. It's important to carefully review your financial aid options so that you can make an informed decision about the type of aid that's best for you.

When deciding the type of financial aid to accept, it's generally best to first accept any free money, such as grants or scholarships. Borrowed money, such as federal student loans, should be your final consideration as this is money that you will need to repay with interest. Should you choose to borrow student loans, you will need to sign a promissory note that specifies your loan terms and conditions.

Your student aid offer will include additional directions on how to accept your financial aid.

How to Renew Your FAFSA Form

You can renew your FAFSA by completing the same steps that you did when applying for federal student aid for the first time. To renew your FAFSA form, complete the following three steps:

1. Review the application requirements and gather documentation necessary to complete your FAFSA application.

Learn what documents you need here.

2. Choose how you are going to apply, whether online, by mail, or in person.

To apply for federal financial aid online, click here to begin the online FAFSA form.

To apply for federal financial aid by mail, complete the FAFSA form here and mail your completed form to:

Federal Student Aid Programs

               PO Box 7654

               London, KY 40742-7654

To apply for federal financial aid in person, visit the financial aid office at the school or college that you will be attending.

3. Submit your application.

Need More Help?

If you have any questions about the application process or require assistance, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1 (800) 433-3243. You can also email or chat online with the FSAIC here. Or, contact your school's financial aid office for assistance.

View or Download Our Free Guide

While we are not affiliated with the government in any way, our private company engaged writers to research the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and compiled a guide that we believe is simple to use and easy to understand. Our goal is to help you get the benefits that you need by providing useful information on the process.

Our free FAFSA Guide is filled with helpful information about how to apply for Federal Student Aid, program eligibility requirements and how to get in touch with offices. You can view or download our free guide here.