What Is FAFSA, and Why Does It Matter?
Preparing for college can be overwhelming. Visit colleges, apply to your top choices, apply for scholarships … and fill out the FAFSA. Maybe you’ve heard people say that you need to fill out the FAFSA, but you’re not quite sure if it’s really that important or if it even applies to you. You wonder, “What is FAFSA, and why does it matter?” If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re in the right place!
What is FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. As its name suggests, FAFSA is a free form you fill out to apply for student aid from the federal government, including grants, work-study funds, and loans. Many states and colleges also use information from your FAFSA to determine if you qualify for state or college aid. In other words, filing FAFSA is important if you need financial aid to pay for college.
Who can apply for FAFSA?
If you plan to attend college the next academic year, you’re likely eligible for FAFSA. Even if your family isn’t considered to be low-income, you could still qualify for assistance. In fact, by applying, you automatically qualify for low-interest loans from the federal government.
Other eligibility requirements include being a U.S. citizen or meeting FAFSA’s requirements for noncitizens and being enrolled in or accepted for enrollment in a degree or certification program. Federal Student Aid provides a full list of FAFSA requirements on its website.
Do you have to pay back FAFSA?
Whether or not you have to pay back FAFSA depends on what type of funding you accept. Scholarships, grants, and work-study programs typically don’t have to be paid back, but if you take out federal student loans, you will have to pay them back post-college. As you decide how to fund college, it’s important to take advantage of aid that doesn’t have to be repaid before you take out loans.
Where else can you get financial aid?
The aid you get from FAFSA is helpful, but you may still need more financial aid in order to afford college. The great news is that you can find financial aid and scholarships in many other places! And if you’ve filled out the FAFSA, you might have even more opportunities to qualify for aid from your state or college.
There are many scholarship websites that offer thousands of scholarships. We recommend Fastweb, Access Scholarships, and Scholarships.com. Be sure to check if local foundations have scholarships you qualify for, too. If you live in Northeast Indiana, the Questa Foundation is a great foundation to start with.
Your college also likely offers scholarships and financial aid. Grace College offers scholarships and grants to 100% of their full-time undergraduate students, making college more affordable. They have merit scholarships, need-based financial aid, a scholarship competition, and several other scholarship opportunities.
If you’re like most incoming college students, you need funding to help you pay for college. FAFSA is a simple way to qualify for aid you wouldn’t otherwise qualify for from the federal government, your state, or your institution. According to College Board, each year, millions or billions of dollars of aid remain unused because students don’t file the FAFSA. Take advantage of this opportunity to get funding for college!
Although you now know the answer to “What is FAFSA?”, you may still have questions about how it works. If you need more assistance with filling out the FAFSA, read our step-by-step guide to FAFSA, and if you’re looking for a college that provides generous financial aid, request more information about Grace College.