Financial Aid

Applying for Financial Aid: Get to Know the FAFSA

The FAFSA is an often-under-utilized resource that can provide thousands of dollars each year to help alleviate your college costs!

Student Contributor, Jasmin Kaur

December 13, 2022

Applying for Financial Aid: Get to Know the FAFSA
Learn more about the FAFSA, your key to financial aid to pay for school.
Many college students mistakenly assume that the FAFSA—or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid—only applies to first-year students or those strictly qualifying for need-based aid. However, the FAFSA is actually renewable for up to 6 years, and everyone is encouraged to apply, regardless of income! The crucial thing to remember is that you must resubmit your updated application every school year in order to remain eligible. Below, I’ll discuss some key dates and tips to remember to help you get started with the FAFSA!

The FAFSA opens on October 1 and closes on June 30, however, submit it ASAP!

While the FAFSA technically has a delayed deadline, many colleges have their specific priority deadlines that are usually much earlier and states also impose their own cutoffs, some as early as February. Additionally, much of the aid is often given on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s best to apply as soon as possible.
Just go to the website to create your free account and get started. Chances are, amidst classes, finals, and, finally, the long-sought winter break, you'll forget to apply by the priority deadlines. Instead, jot down October 1st on your planner and complete that application right away. Once you’ve become familiar with its format, and depending on whether you have all your documents with you, it shouldn’t take longer than 45-60 minutes.

Your school may offer help with filling out the FAFSA.

Your university’s financial aid office requires the FAFSA to grant any need-based aid. As such, they want the data to be as correct as possible. Many universities offer student aid counselors to go over any questions you may have, including filling out the FAFSA. Additionally, some schools even send out reminder emails when the application is about to open and can set aside specific days to help you fill out the form, so keep an eye out on your inbox for tips and reminders. As mentioned earlier, as long as you have all your documents prepared, and once you've become familiar with the format, it shouldn't take long to complete the form.

After you’ve applied.

While the majority of your work is completed once you've applied, it’s still a good idea to keep an eye out for any emails regarding the status of your application. The first email you will receive within a few days is from, stating that your application has been successfully processed. It will also include your SAR, or student aid report, which records what you reported on the application. Note that this email does not provide an estimate of your financial aid. Instead, it merely acknowledges that your application is now in the system. If you notice any FAFSA mistakes or if circumstances have changed (whether it be a drastic financial change, living on-campus instead of with parents, or other issue), be sure to notify your financial aid office and correct the mistake on the form (there is an option to edit it). Your university's financial aid office will then send the email regarding your estimated financial aid sometime in the spring, depending on when you submitted the application and the office’s schedule. According to the National College Attainment Network, only "57% of high school graduates from the Class of 2021 submitted the FAFSA." Even if you think you aren't eligible for need-based aid, it's still best to apply since there are no income limits, and the application also lends weight to considerations for student loans. Remember the October 1st launch date and apply as soon as possible to receive as much aid as you can. Make sure to renew your application every year!

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