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Get to Know FAFSA and How to Apply for Federal Financial Aid

Updated By Clint Hunter on March 18, 2021

Launching your college career is a big decision. Completing a college degree can open new possibilities. It is a road traveled by millions of Americans each year, so you’re in good company. With the opportunities that a college or career education can provide, though, come expenses and a lot of planning. The best thing any new student can do is to learn as much as possible about options and how to move forward. In addition to researching degree programs and subjects to study, the financial side of preparing for college or career school is vital to each student’s success. For many students, federal financial aid helps make pursuing a degree possible. There is a lot of information to review, but there are also resources available to help.

What is FAFSA?

First off, what is FAFSA? The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the application that allows you to access federal student aid. The program is administered by Federal Student Aid, which is an office of the US Department of Education. Federal Student Aid processes over 20 million FAFSA requests each year and provides more than $120 million in student aid each year. That aid takes the form of grants, loans, and work-study.

Grants are financial aid that does not have to be repaid, as long as the recipient stays in the program for which the grant funding was provided. Many federal grants are need-based, though merit-based scholarships are usually also available. Loans are funds borrowed for college or career school that must be repaid, with interest.

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Student loans can come from the federal government or private sources like banks. Federal loans usually provide lower interest rates. Students should be aware of the terms of any loan before taking it out. You can read more information here about the difference between federal and private loans. Federal work-study helps undergraduate and graduate students earn money to help pay education expenses through part-time jobs. Program opportunities are administered by schools participating in the program. The program encourages community service work, and work related to the student’s course of study.

How to Apply for Federal Financial Aid

You can fill out the FAFSA form online, or you can download or print the form. Some participating schools allow you to file your FAFSA application from their institution. Ask your school’s financial aid office for information. You can begin your FAFSA application early and keep it saved until you are ready to submit. It is important to know that you must submit a new application each year you are in school if you are receiving aid.

Get to know the financial aid team at your school. They will have extensive experience in federal financial aid and the options that apply to you. If you are ready to pursue a degree program, take a look at this information on degree options. The more you know going into your college experience, the better off you will be. There are multiple FAFSA forms, and completing the right form for you is important. There are a lot of resources and information on the Federal Student Aid website to help you navigate the process. With the help of your school’s financial aid office and the Federal Student Aid website, you will be able to make informed decisions and navigate the process. The FAFSA website has videos and straightforward information available for easy access.

Be mindful of FAFSA application deadlines. You can look up your state’s deadline at This is another good reason to talk with your school’s financial aid team. Work with your advisors at your school to get the right application completed by the right time. Embarking on a college career is a bold and brave decision. Make sure you arm yourself with all the information you need to get the funding in place to help make your college plans possible. With the help of available online resources and your school’s financial aid team, you can focus on your studies.