FAFSA: Everything you need to know to apply for federal student financial aid

Everything you need to know about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (aka the FAFSA). Don't leave money on the table.

By Team XQ

October 1st marks the first day students can apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (aka the FAFSA). 

Filling it out is really important because the FAFSA is used by the U.S. Department of Education to determine students’ eligibility for federal student aid, and may be used to determine eligibility for state and school aid as well.

That aid takes shape in the form of low-cost loans, grants (like the Pell), and work-study employment.

In 2018, more than $120 billion dollars was awarded and distributed to more than 13 million students. 

Money Left On The Table

While the FAFSA plays an essential role in helping students finance their college education, only 57-percent of high school seniors complete it on average

According to a 2018 report by NerdWallet, students who were eligible but didn’t complete the FAFSA resulted in $2.6 billion in Pell Grants going unclaimed.

Pell Grants, by the way, are not required to be paid back by students.

The Importance Of Applying Early

The FAFSA is accepted, reviewed, and distributed on a rolling basis. That means the earlier students apply, the better their chances are for receiving a generous financial aid award. (Typically, digital submissions are processed within 3-5 days.)

In the words of Nicole Straub, Vice President at Discover Student Loans, and reported by CNBC’s Abigail Hess, “October 1st is the day that the FAFSA form opens for the next academic period, and it’s a little bit of a first-come-first-served system.” 

So while the official deadline for the FAFSA isn’t until June 30, 2020, it’s greatly beneficial to get the form filled out and submitted. Especially since state and institutional (university/college) deadlines vary. 

To find out the deadline for your state, follow this link and scroll down to “Student Aid Deadlines.” 

Think Your Student Doesm’t Qualify? Think Again

One of the most common misconceptions tied to the FAFSA is that the families of dependent students often believe their earnings disqualify their kids from federal aid. 

Yet, financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education is available to any household with an income of below $250,000 a year.

Since just 4.3-percent of American households earn more than $250,000 a year, the vast majority of college-eligible kids have the potential for being awarded federal financial aid.

Resources To Help Your Student Fill Out The FAFSAR

FAFSA: Now Available As A Mobile App

Did you know that you can apply for the FAFSA from your smartphone? 

If you’re an iOS user, click here.

If you’re an Android user, click here.

They’re here to help

If you’re confused by anything on the FAFSA, be sure to check in with the teachers and counselors at your high school. Your local public library is also a potential source of information and guidance for all things FAFSA.

Online Resources And Tools

For publications, fact sheets, online tools, and other resources to help your student prepare and pay for college or career school, click here.

These publications may prove useful as well:

From Team XQ

Deciding where to go to college can be a complex and complicated process.

That’s why we created a number of tools to help you and your student make the many important decisions that come with going to college.

The XQ College Pathfinder will provide you with tips and tools you can use to be sure students graduate high school prepared to succeed in the next stage of their lives.

Our three-part series on student loans provides a comprehensive overview of everything you can expect when it comes to considering the option available for paying for college: