FAFSA? What does that even mean? FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. All students who are looking to receive federal funds including loans and grants must apply for them through the FAFSA.

One misunderstanding that students have is they think that the FAFSA is going to be a long, drawn out process, but it is actually simple and easy to fill out. In addition, once you have it filled out, it lasts for a year and you are eligible to receive all types of federal aid to attend school.


Why Should I Fill Out the FAFSA?

One of the main reasons you want to fill out the FAFSA is because it allows you to qualify for all types of federal student aid such as Direct Stafford Loans, Perkins Student Loans, Parent PLUS loans, and Grad PLUS loans. Some students think that they will not qualify for aid because their parents make too much money, but this is not always the case.

When you fill out the FAFSA, it will determine what type of aid you are eligible for. In fact, many students qualify for unsubsidized loans even though their parents make a decent amount of money.

Also, the FAFSA can be updated at any time and it is filled out yearly, which means if your situation changes one year, then you may qualify for a different type or amount of aid than you did the year before.


Are There Deadlines to Apply?

Yes. The FAFSA can be filled out year round and updated as needed, but there are deadlines that you must apply by to be considered for aid that year. If you miss the deadline, you can still fill out the FAFSA and receive aid, but it is not guaranteed that all paperwork and processing will be completed by the time you need the funds to pay for school.

The deadline for the 2016 – 2017 school year is June 30, 2016. The first date to apply for aid for the 2016 – 2017 school year is January 1, 2016.


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How Do I Apply for the FAFSA?

The easiest way to apply for the FAFSA is by submitting an online application through fafsa.gov. The application is short and easy to fill out in one sitting. In fact, you can even import your tax return information, so you do not have to scrounge for your financial information.

If you do not want to fill out the application online, you can fill out a paper form, but it is important to note that it can take longer to process the paper application, so you want to give yourself enough time to do so.

If it is your first year in school, your financial aid counselor may be able to help you fill out your FAFSA. He or she will walk you through the process and help you gather the information you need to apply.


How Are the Funds Dispersed?

The funds that you receive for your schooling will be sent to your school and then your school will apply the aid to your account. The aid is used to pay for your tuition, fees, and other related expenses first. If there is a refund due to you, your school will send you this amount and you can use it for your education purchases or, if you decide you do not want the refund, you can return it to the loan provider.

If you need help filling out the FAFSA, talk to your financial aid counselor today.