FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is a standard form provided by the federal government. This form allows students and their parents to apply for various forms of federal aid such as loans, grants and work-study programs. Funds can be used for higher education under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. The form must be filled out on an annual basis when students are intending to attend school. Financial aid departments at higher education institutions often can provide guidance on filling out this form.
Types of funding. In terms of various funding options, loans are sums of money that are borrowed and require repayment, often with interest. Grants are similar to loans, but they typically do not require repayment if students follow the criteria of the grant. Work-study programs often allow students to work a fixed number of hours in various on-campus departments in exchange for federal funding that can be applied to their education.
Figuring EFC. When students fill out the FAFSA, their information is input into a formula that calculates the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. This is a way for the federal government to figure out how much a student or family can afford. In order to get a more accurate number, students and parents must make sure that their income and tax information is current.
How to submit. Students and parents can fill out the FAFSA in different ways. The more traditional method is a paper form, which can be filled out and mailed in. Federal Student Aid, an office within the U.S. Department of Education, recommends submitting the form online. This method is quicker, more secure and potentially more accurate.
Note deadlines. The key to the FAFSA is to make sure it is filled out on time. Given the flurry of forms to fill out come college application time, it is important that students and parents be aware of deadlines. Higher education can be very expensive, which is why students should do their best to access as much funding as possible.