FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is an application administered by the U.S. Department of Education which helps determine financial support eligibility for college students. Students who are dependents of their parents complete the application with financial information of their own and their parents. Students who are considered independents complete the application using only their financial information. Once the application has been reviewed, an Expected Family Contribution – or EFC – is determined. The EFC is an estimate of how much money a student or their parents can afford to pay for school. With this information, schools are able to identify what kind of loans, grants and scholarships can be provided to students.
Why It’s Important
If you do not complete a FAFSA, your financial aid options are extremely limited. You will also miss out on potential scholarship opportunities. Even if you do not believe you will receive any aid in the form of loans or grants, scholarships and merit-based aid packages are often times only provided to students who complete a FAFSA. In fact, 1 in 4 families do not apply for FAFSA with the majority stating that they did not believe they would receive aid. At its core, the FAFSA is a base discovery tool in ensuring your tuition rate is the lowest it can possibly be.
The Application Process
Each year, students will need to complete a FAFSA to determine their financial aid eligibility. Even if you completed a FAFSA your freshman year, you’ll need to continue applying each year of school, as your family’s financial situation may change. Here is the general application process and what to expect:
- ONE: Prepare your financial information and your parents’ information as well if you are a dependent
- TWO: Create an FSA ID at fsaid.ed.gov to log into the FAFSA portal and electronically sign your application – if you are a dependent, your parents will need to set up one as well
- THREE: Complete your FAFSA application at fafsa.gov and be sure to notate your top schools
- FOUR: You will receive your Student Aid Report within 3–5 days which will summarize the information you submitted and outline your EFC
- FIVE: A financial aid award letter will be provided by your top schools once your school application has been accepted – this will outline the loans, grants and scholarships available to you from their institution, including the Iowa Tuition Grant.
Learn more about the Iowa Tuition Grant and eligibility criteria by visiting our Iowa Tuition Grant page.
For more information about financial aid options and criteria for Iowans, visit iowacollegeaid.gov
Watch this video to explore how to fill out the FAFSA – video courtesy of studentaid.ed.gov
Discover even more FAFSA details by watching a Q&A Facebook live event held on April 15, 2020 – video courtesy of Iowa College Aid, ICAN and the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges & Universities.