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Federal Aid

Each year, the U.S. Department of Education awards more than $120 billion in federal grants and loans and work-study awards to millions of college students who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Federal student financial aid is an integral part of paying for college, and applying for financial aid will take preparation, time and organization. The FAFSA process can be simplified if you know your deadlines and have all your required FAFSA documents in order. Remember: the first F in "FAFSA" stands for "free" - you should never pay to fill out the FAFSA form.

The federal government offers a variety of financial aid programs to help cover college expenses such as tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. The three types of federal student aid include:

  • Grants - financial aid that does not have to be repaid (unless, for example, you withdraw from school and owe a refund).
  • Work-study - a work program through which you earn money to help you pay for school.
  • Student Loans - borrowed money for college or career school where you must repay your loans, with interest.

FAFSA Basic Eligibility Criteria

For a full list of FAFSA basic eligibilty requirements, click here. Even if you are not eligible for federal student aid, you may qualify for financial aid from your state. For more information on financial aid from your state government, contact your state grant agency here.

FAFSA Application

The easiest and quickest way to file your FAFSA is by filling out the application online. By filling out the FAFSA online, you can automatically transfer your income information from tax returns to the FAFSA form via the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. If you wish to file your FAFSA by mail, you can either print, fill out, and mail in a FAFSA PDF paper copy or request a paper FAFSA by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 334-523-2691.

If you are new to the FAFSA process, start your application here.

If you are a returning user looking to correct information on your FAFSA or add a school, login and update your application here.

2019-2020 FAFSA Deadlines

Students have until by 11:59 p.m. Central time (CT) on June 30, 2020 to submit their FAFSA online. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on Sept. 12, 2020.

2020-2021 FAFSA Deadlines

Students have until 11:59 p.m. Central time (CT) on June 30, 2021 to submit their FAFSA online. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on Sept. 11, 2021.

Scholarships and federal work-study financial aid are doled to students who apply the earliest, as some states and schools have limited funds. Remember, you only have to file a FAFSA once to be eligible for all types of financial aid: federal, state and institutional financial aid. For more information on FAFSA deadlines, click here.

Additional Help Resources

For more assistance in searching and applying for federal financial aid, visit the Department of Education's website. The U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid office offers publications, fact sheets, online tools, and other resources to help students prepare and pay for college or career school. Topics that are covered include information on college preparation and federal student aid programs, FAFSA information, loan information, consumer protection and financial literacy, webinars, and more. On request, publications and fact sheets are available in alternate formats, such as Braille. For more information on additional resources, please contact the Department of Education.

Additionally, your high school's college counselor and college's financial aid office can also answer any questions you may have. Lastly, check to see if your high school offers free workshops on completing the FAFSA and applying for federal student financial aid.

Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC)

The Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) provides the following help services:

  • Helps complete/modify your online FAFSA
  • Helps complete/modify your paper FAFSA
  • Answers questions about your FAFSA PIN
  • Checks the status of your FAFSA
  • Mails a duplicate SAR
  • Changes your paper address and e-mail address
  • Changes the schools listed on your application
  • Explains the SAR and how to make corrections
  • Checks whether a school participates in federal student aid programs
  • Explains if you are eligible for federal student aid
  • Explains how federal student aid is awarded and paid
  • Explains the verification process

The FSAIC does not do the following:

  • Make policies
  • Expedite the federal student aid application process
  • Discuss your federal student aid file with unauthorized persons
  • Influence schools' financial aid policies

Latest College & Financial Aid News

College Work-Study Jobs Face Changes During Pandemic

August 4, 2020

by Susan Dutca-Lovell

The federal work-study program is a way in which college students can work part- or full-time while simultaneously attending school in order to help pay for college-related expenses. The program, available at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level, may face some changes amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. [...]

Senator Outlines Student Loan Relief in New Proposal

July 30, 2020

by Izzy Hall

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the current chairman of the Senate education committee, has recently proposed the Student Loan Repayment and FAFSA Simplification Act, a piece of legislation that would allow students with no income to forgo federal student loan repayments. His recommendations, which he developed with bipartisan support, would also simplify the FAFSA and reduce the number of federal loan repayment options from nine to two. [...]

It’s Not Too Late: Guide to Appealing Financial Aid

July 28, 2020

by Izzy Hall

Have your financial circumstances changed due to COVID-19? You’re not alone. Many students and their families have faced unemployment, reduced job hours and general loss of economic stability in the wake of the pandemic. And as the FAFSA determines your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) based on income from the previous year, students may have greater financial need now than they did when they initially filed for federal aid. Unfortunately, the deadline to submit the FAFSA passed at the end of June. However, it is not too late to appeal your student financial aid from your chosen institution. [...]

Last Reviewed: August 2020