Financial Aid

Questions about the FAFSA

Learn what the FAFSA is, how you apply, when it's due, if there are income limits, how to make corrections, and more.
Woman learning about the FAFSA

In the world of financial aid, FAFSA® is king, as it's the main application used by students to apply for college financial aid funds. The form is required by every college and university in the country, and is used to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships, work-study, and student loans. To learn more about the FAFSA, review our Q&A below, which covers the application process, the financial aid provided, how to edit application data, and more.

Q: What is the FAFSA?

A: The FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is the main application for college financial aid. Every college and university requires it, so if you're interested in financial aid, you'll need to complete it, and list all of the schools where you're applying on it. The FAFSA is a free application, and can be completed online here.

Q: How do I apply for FAFSA?

A: By completing and submitting the FAFSA, an online application, you will be applying for college financial aid. To submit the FAFSA, visit the application online here, fill in the information requested, and submit the completed form. Before you start, you and one of your parents will need to sign up for an FSA ID username and password a few days before you start the FAFSA. You can easily create an FSA ID online here. Any colleges that you list on your FAFSA will receive the information you provided on the application, and each school will determine your eligibility for federal, state, and institutional (a college's) financial aid.

Q: When is the FAFSA due?

A: Every college sets its own FAFSA deadline, so you'll need to check with every school on your list to find out when it needs to be submitted. The FAFSA becomes available on October 1st in the student's senior year, and it's best to submit the FAFSA as soon after October 1st as possible. Though a college's financial aid deadline might not be until January or February, some schools do run out of financial aid before their deadline, so it's best to submit the FAFSA ASAP.

Q: Are there FAFSA grants and FAFSA scholarships?

A: There are federal grants, work-study, and student loans, which you can learn more about here, and by submitting the FAFSA, a student is applying for all three of these types of financial aid. Many colleges also have what is referred to as institutional aid, which are funds provided directly by the school, and by submitting the FAFSA, a student is often also applying for this type of aid.

Q: How do I do the FAFSA as an independent student?

A: If you're a federally independent student, it means you have met certain criteria (see this checklist) such as having dependents, being married, or pursuing a graduate degree. If you meet that criteria, you will only need to report your own financial information and that of your spouse (if you're married) on the FAFSA but nothing about your parents. If you don't meet any of that criteria, but you have unusal circumstances that prevent you from providing parent information (such as having an incarcerated parent or not knowing the location of your parents), you may still complete the FAFSA on your own, and you'll be given Provisional Independent Student Status. Colleges will then follow up with you to request any supporting documentation they require to review your situation and declare you offically independent.

Q: Does the FAFSA provide work-study?

A: By submitting the FAFSA, you are applying for federal work-study (along with grants and student loans). Work-study provides the opportunity for a student to work part time while in school and earn funds throughout the year in paycheck form. You do have to qualify for work-study by demonstrating a certain amount of financial need, and even if you qualify, your college will ultimately decide if you receive it. You can learn more about work-study here.

Q: Are there income limits on the FAFSA?

A: Anyone can submit the FAFSA, and even students from higher income households will qualify for a federal student loan by completing the application. There's no set limit of family income above which a student wouldn't qualify for financial aid, as the formula used to determine aid eligibility is complex and takes into account several factors. If you're on the fence about submitting the FAFSA, we always recommend that you take the time to do so, just to see what your family may qualify to receive. As well, some colleges request the application even for consideration of merit-based aid, so go ahead and complete it, at least for the student's freshman year.

Q: How do I do FAFSA corrections?

A: If you need to make a correction to the information you submitted on the FAFSA, simply log in to your application and modify the data fields as needed. You'll need to re-submit the application to all of the schools that need to receive your updated information.

Q: What is FAFSA Verification?

A: Verification is a process required by Federal Student Aid (the arm of the Department of Education that administers the FAFSA) in which schools must verify certain pieces of FAFSA information submitted by a percentage of families. Your family will be notified by Federal Student Aid or the college if you are selected for Verification. If selected, you may need to submit additional information or documentation to the school. It is imperative that you comply with all requests to participate in Verification, if selected, as failing to do so will result in the cancelation of your financial aid. You can learn more about Verification here.

Want to learn more? For a full overview of the FAFSA, we invite you to watch our recorded webinar, Understanding the FAFSA, available on demand anytime.

Watch the Understanding the FAFSA webinar