Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Written by: Financial Aid Sense 

College-bound seniors and their parents need to think about filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) prior to their college enrollment. As the name states, the FAFSA is a FREE application, one which everyone should file. The FAFSA is a student application for financial assistance, one which is necessary so that students can be evaluated for federal need-based financial aid funds (including grants, loans, and work programs). It is highly recommend that everyone file a FAFSA, even if you are unsure about your financial aid eligibility. The recommended filing process for the FAFSA is the online process via the Federal Student Aid site. The link to file the FAFSA is The online process is the most streamlined of the filing options available. The FAFSA is available as of October 1st each year!

Prior to completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the student and a parent needs to first request a FSA ID, which can be done on the Federal Student Aid site provided above. Parents and students both need to request their own FSA ID which can be used each year to electronically apply for federal student aid and to access Federal Student Aid records online in the future. After a parent and student have their FSA IDs, then the student is ready to initiate the FAFSA application process. In order to meet priority filing deadlines for financial aid, students should complete the FAFSA by the deadlines stated by their college(s).

The FAFSA is in the student’s name and social security number and requires that the student share income and asset information, demographic information, and the colleges they are interested in attending. In addition, parents will need to share their income and asset information as well. To help you better prepare for completing the FAFSA, you should have a number of key documents on hand to use as a reference. These documents include final pay stubs, completed tax returns, bank statements, investment statements, and any other statements related to additional income sources during the previous calendar year.

After filing the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) either in the mail or via email. The SAR is essentially a confirmation of filing the FAFSA and a summary of what you reported on the FAFSA. The SAR can later be used to make any corrections to the information that you originally provided. In addition, the SAR will include a number called the “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC) which the family can use as a guide when planning the financing aspect of a college education. The EFC amount was generated as a result of filing the FAFSA. A standard federal formula utilizes the information submitted on the FAFSA to determine the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) amount; an estimate of what a family will be expected to contribute towards the cost of college. Colleges will use the EFC amount when calculating financial aid eligibility and awarding financial aid funds at their college.

In order to quality for financial aid, a student needs to complete the FAFSA. As mentioned earlier, the FAFSA is a standard form which utilizes a formula to analyze a family’s income and asset information to then determine their ability to pay for college. One thing is for sure, without submitting a FAFSA, a college cannot review a student for need-based federal financial aid funds, so it is recommended that everyone complete a FAFSA ~ the first step in the financial aid process.

See related articles about the FAFSA including:

Who Should Complete the FAFSA

FAFSA Timing and Helpful Tips

Helpful Documents for Completing the FAFSA

Student Aid Report

Correct FAFSA Website

Federal Aid Verification

College Goal Sunday

For additional financial aid resources, please see Financial Aid Sense and remember to file your FAFSA. Financial Aid Sense is a practical publication designed to guide you through the process every step of the way. This valuable resource provides templates, timelines, case studies, a glossary, and other resources to help you stay organized and on top of the financial aid process. In addition, we address the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process in detail.

"Financial Aid Book"

Jan Marie Combs, EzineArticles Basic Author