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.
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.
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.