2020-2021 Guide to the FAFSA

fafsa cover image

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, opens on October 1 each year. You need to fill out this form to receive financial aid from the federal government to help pay for college. 

What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the form you need to fill out to get financial aid from the federal government to help pay for college. The FAFSA asks for information about your family’s finances to determine your eligibility for need-based grants, work-study programs, and low-interest loans. 

States and colleges use the information you provide on the FAFSA to determine which students get financial aid, and how much. 

Who Can Apply?

To be eligible for the FAFSA you must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program at your college or career school.

There is no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. Many factors are considered when determining your eligibility for aid, so students with families of any income level should apply. 

graphic describing eligibility for federal student aid

Via StudentAid.gov

How Do You Apply for the 2020 FAFSA? 

Quick FAFSA Facts: 

  • You can apply on the FAFSA website beginning October 1. 
  • Aid is distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, so don’t procrastinate filling out the FAFSA!
  • Filling out the FAFSA is free – you do not have to pay to fill out the FAFSA. 
  • You need to submit a new FAFSA before each academic year.

What you need to apply:

  • Your Social Security number and your parents’ Social Security numbers if you are a dependent student
  • Your driver’s license number if you have one
  • Your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen
  • Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information, for you (and your spouse, if you are married), and for your parents if you are a dependent student:
    • IRS 1040
    • Foreign tax return, IRS 1040NR, or IRS 1040NR-EZ
    • Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau
  • Records of your untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits, for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student
  • Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks and bonds and real estate (but not including the home in which you live); and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student

2020 – 2021 FAFSA Deadlines

Federal Deadlines

The FAFSA opens for the 2020-2021 year (to receive aid for the 2021-2022 school year) on October 1, 2020. Your application must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CST on June 30, 2021.

State Deadlines

States have their own deadlines for receiving your FAFSA information in order to be considered for state financial aid. View state’s deadline on the FAFSA website, here.

College Deadlines

Your college may have it’s own deadline for receiving your FAFSA information. Check with your school’s financial aid office for their FAFSA deadline. 

What Type of Aid Can I Receive?

You can receive grants, loans, scholarships, or work-study offers by filling out the 2020 FAFSA. 

Grants 

Most grants are truly free money – they do not have to be repaid. Grants can come from the federal government, your state government, your college, or a private organization. 

The U.S. Department of Education offers various federal grants to students that you can learn more about through the links below:

Loans 

A loan is money you borrow and must pay back with interest. Loans offered via the federal government are low-interest and must be used for college costs. Be cautious when accepting loans, and ensure that you will have a means of repayment when the time comes.

Learn more about loans and the FAFSA here

Scholarships and Work-Study

Submitting the FAFSA is a requirement for some scholarships – just another reason to fill out the FAFSA. 

How to Find College Scholarships

The Federal Work-Study program provides part-time jobs for part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. The program prioritizes placing you in jobs related to your field of study or future career. If you’re interested in participating in work-study, be sure to submit your FAFSA early, as funds are limited. 

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