The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form used to determine a student’s eligibility for financial aid, including student loans, grants, scholarships, and federal work-study programs.
Because higher education is so expensive, this is a form many students become very acquainted with. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the process and answer any questions you might have.
When is the FAFSA deadline this year?
Federal deadlines for FAFSA applications
In 2021, the FAFSA is due by 11:59 pm Central Time (CT) on June 30, 2021. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 pm CT on September 11, 2021.
In 2022, the FAFSA is due by 11:59 pm CT on June 30, 2022. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 pm CT on September 10, 2022.
State deadlines for FAFSA applications
Additionally, each state has its own deadline, so make sure to check StudentAid.gov for more information.
Your FAFSA Document Checklist
The form will ask you for your personal information and questions to learn about your current financial situation. Depending on your circumstances, you might need the following documents or information.
Use this FAFSA Checklist:
- Your Social Security number
- Your parents’ Social Security number if you are a dependent student
- Your driver’s license (if applicable)
- Your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen
- Your Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information. Include your spouses if you are married and/or 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. Include your parents’ if you are a dependent student.
- Information about any cash including, savings and checking account balances, investments (stocks, bonds, and real estate), and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student.
How to Add Your School to FAFSA
When you complete your FAFSA form, you must list at least one college or university to receive your information. There will be an option for you to do this when filling out the form. When you get to this section of the form, search for a college that you want to receive your information by entering the city, state, and/or school name and hitting “search.” You can then find the name of the school you want from the FAFSA database.
Important information about FAFSA
Each type of financial reward from the government has unique tax consequences that are handled differently on your federal tax return.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when reporting your FAFSA money on a federal tax return:
FAFSA tax forms
A lot of people ask “do I have to file taxes for financial aid?” And the answer is “Yes!” Really, did you think you could escape paying taxes? The first thing to keep in mind is only applicable if you’ve received a Pell grant.
You won’t need to include the grant amount on your federal taxable income unless you used the funds for unapproved purposes.
Next, be sure to include all your earnings from a work-study award. A lot of students are provided a part-time job as part of their FAFSA award, and it’s fully taxable on your tax return just like any other job earnings would be. Student loans, however, are not treated as taxable income even though FAFSA will list them as a part of your award.
When you begin repaying your loans though, you may qualify for a student loan deduction if you meet certain income requirements and you use the funds for school-related expenses only.
And lastly, evaluate any state financial assistance you might have received. These could be treated the same as any federal awards on your federal income tax return. State sponsored student loans, however, are excluded for taxable income.
Federal Work-Study jobs may be available
The Federal Work-Study program provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial needs. Oftentimes this is included in their FAFSA award and allows students to earn money that helps them pay for their educational expenses.
The program encourages students to work in a field related to their course of study as well as community service. Jobs are available both on campus and off, though typically if you’re working off campus, you’ll be employed by a private nonprofit organization or public agency.
You’ll earn at least the current federal minimum wage requirement and the amount of hours you work cannot exceed your total Federal Work-Study award.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who qualifies for FAFSA?
General eligibility requirements for FAFSA include you have financial need, are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, and are enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program at your college. Plus, there is no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. Factors such as the size of your family and your year in school are taken into consideration.
Is FAFSA first come first serve?
Yes! Schools only have so much free money to give and often distribute student aid funds on a first-come, first serve basis in the order of when students submit their financial aid application. So be sure to turn yours in as soon as possible.
How much Federal Student Aid can I get?
This all depends! Eligibility is determined by your Expected Family Contribution, your year in school, your enrollment status, and the cost of attendance for the school you’ll be attending.
The financial aid office at your school will calculate how much financial aid you will receive by first deciding your cost of attendance (COA) at that school. Then they will consider your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which actually has nothing to do with the amount of money your family will have to pay for your education.
It’s a number calculated by your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits, and sometimes your family size and the number of family members attending college that year will also be considered.
Once the financial aid office has both your COA and EFC, they subtract your EFC from your COA to determine the amount of need-based aid you can receive.
Do you have to pay back FAFSA money?
You won’t have to pay back any grants, scholarships, or money awarded through a work-study program, but you will have to pay back any financial aid if it comes in the form of a loan, but
How long does it take for FAFSA to process?
The usual length of time it takes to process a FAFSA form is three to five days if it was submitted using the FAFSA website (fafsa.gov) or the myStudentAid mobile app. You’re able to get the status of your FAFSA form immediately after you turn it in. Any forms submitted through the mail will be processed within seven to ten days.
Does FAFSA cover summer classes?
You may be able to get federal financial aid for your summer classes if you haven’t already used your maximum available funds for the entire academic year and you’ll be enrolled at least half time during the summer.
Each school will determine which FAFSA application they used for their summer session, so be sure to check with your school’s financial aid office.
If you have a form on file for the previous fall/spring academic year, you may or may not need to file out a new one for summer.
Does FAFSA check your bank accounts?
Technically, FAFSA doesn’t check anything because it’s just a form. However, the form will require you to include information about your assets, like your checking and savings accounts.
If your form needs to be verified, you then might have to provide documentation supporting the amounts you entered for your bank accounts to prove they are accurate.