YOUR FAFSA QUESTIONS ANSWERED By Anna Helhoski
Filling out and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the key to getting financial aid to help pay for college if you or your family can’t foot the entire bill. The Education Department provides over $125 billion in aid to students each year. While the supply of cash isn’t infinite, all eligible financial aid applicants can expect to get a piece of the pie. The process – and the application itself – can be confusing, so here is a FAFSA faq that provides answers to questions you may have. BEFORE YOU START IS THE FAFSA REALLY FREE? Yes. The FAFSA is free to fill out and submit. Be wary of companies that charge you to fill out the form. 1 WHAT IS THE FAFSA AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? Submitting the FAFSA is the only way to get federal financial aid, including Pell grants, work-study programs and federal student loans. 2
You also often need to file the FAFSA to qualify for state and institutional aid, such as scholarships.
WHAT IF I DON’T QUALIFY FOR NEED-BASED AID? SHOULD I STILL FILE THE FAFSA? All students should file the FAFSA, even if they think their parents make too much money to qualify. That’s because not all financial aid is based on need. For example, you could qualify for a merit scholarship that requires the FAFSA to be on file. If you don’t qualify for need-based aid programs, you typically can still borrow unsubsidized federal student loans. HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO FILL OUT THE FAFSA? The Education Department estimates it takes applicants less than an hour to fill out and submit the FAFSA. But it will take you longer if you’re not prepared for the process with all required documentation and tax information. 4
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