There are many ways to pay for college in the US, but one of the most important is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Operated through the US Department of Education, FAFSA sets the general eligibility requirements for financial aid, which include being a US citizen or eligible non-citizen. If you have questions about your eligibility, check with FAFSA.gov.
When you apply for the first time, FAFSA shares your financial information with the schools you intend to apply to. Once you’re accepted and have determined which college or university you plan on attending, your school will determine your financial aid package. FAFSA will then fund the school through a disbursement, and the school will in turn put your aid toward your tuition and fees. Any remainder will be transferred directly to you for books, housing, and other education-related expenses.
Each school tends to align its financial aid deadlines with FAFSA’s annual deadline, though there may be some discrepancies. It’s important to understand when you need to submit your application. Each academic year, the deadlines for FAFSA remain relatively similar. You can begin submitting your application on October 1, and the deadline is June 30.
We've gathered important information on the FAFSA and its deadlines here, though you should consult the Department of Education’s resources for the most up-to-date, complete information. In this article, we’ll go over how to find out your state’s and college’s respective deadlines, and why it’s best to submit your FAFSA as early as possible.
Each year, the FAFSA form for the following academic year becomes available on October 1. That means, if you plan on attending college in 2023, your FAFSA form will be available October 1, 2022—nearly one full year before you begin your studies. FAFSA is due by 11:59 p.m. CT on June 30. You must submit a FAFSA form every year you plan on attending college as an undergraduate, graduate, or professional student.
|Academic year||FAFSA available||FAFSA due|
|2021-2022||October 1, 2021||June 30, 2022|
|2022-2023||October 1, 2022||June 30, 2023|
Beyond the federal deadline, listed above, there are two other key FAFSA deadlines to consider when filling out your form: college and state.
Each college or university has a different financial aid deadline, though many tend to align with FAFSA’s deadline. You can find yours by looking at the financial aid page of your school’s website. Conduct an internet search for your school’s name and “financial aid” to help you find that resource. Many financial aid pages also list contact information if you have questions the website doesn’t answer.
The financial aid page is usually also the best place to find your school’s Federal Student Code, so your information will be forwarded to the appropriate school for consideration. If you can’t find it, search for your school’s name and “FAFSA code.”
Submitting your FAFSA form the year before you plan to attend college can be a bit confusing, because a school will only consider you for aid one you’re an admitted student. But most colleges recommend applying for FAFSA even before you’ve been accepted so that your information is on-hand by the time you hear about an admissions decision.
The last deadline to be aware of is your state’s FAFSA deadline. FAFSA.gov provides a list of state deadlines, which also include Canadian provinces and US territories. As with federal student aid, many states have limited funds and hand out assistance on a first-come, first served basis. You do not need to submit your FAFSA to your state, but you may need to submit FAFSA before the FAFSA deadline in order to qualify for state funds.
FAFSA simplifies the process of applying for financial aid by allowing you to apply for several different types at once. With one form, you’ll be considered for grants, loans, work study jobs, and more:
Grants are aid that you don’t have to pay back as long as you successfully finish your degree. There are a number of grants available through FAFSA, including Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, TEACH Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
Scholarships are also awards that you don’t need to pay back, but they tend to be merit-based or intended for certain groups of people, rather than for students with financial need.
Work study jobs are part-time jobs available to enrolled undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. In exchange for your labor, you’ll earn income to help cover some or most of your educational expenses.
Federal student loans usually feature a lower interest rate than private loans and come with some benefits, such as flexible repayment plans like income-based repayment (IBR). The amount of money you’re allowed to borrow each year depends on what year you are in school, whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student, and your dependency tax status.
FAFSA recognizes some international schools. That means if you plan on studying abroad, be it for a semester or your entire degree, you may qualify for student aid to help you cover the cost of your program. You can find a list of participating schools on FAFSA.gov.
FAFSA can also be used to obtain financial aid for trade schools and even some online degree programs. If you have questions about whether a program or school is eligible, it’s best to contact their financial aid office or a representative to learn more.
Whether you’re applying via desktop or mobile app, you’ll first need to create a FSA ID by entering your name and social security number. After creating your ID, you can fill out your application online at FAFSA.gov, apply via the myStudentAid app, or fill out a paper version and mail it in for processing.
If you are considered a dependent student, you will need to report both your financial information as well as your parent’s financial information. However, if you are an independent student, you will only need to report your financial information. Below, we’ve detailed the required and non-essential but sometimes requested information you will need to include on your FAFSA.
To fill out your application, you’ll need to gather the following:
Social security number or alien registration number (if you’re not a US citizen)
Federal tax returns, W2s, and any other documentation about your income
Bank statements and records of investments
Records of untaxed income
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No matter the stage of your education—undergraduate, graduate, or professional—submitting your FAFSA form each year can help you qualify for financial assistance and cover either a portion or the entire cost of your degree. Let’s go over some common questions that tend to surface around FAFSA.
It’s best to apply as close to the opening date, October 1, as possible. Federal Student Aid, the government provider of student financial assistance in the US, hands out grants, loans, and more on a “first-come, first-served” basis, meaning there’s more money to work with at the very start of a new FAFSA cycle. Submitting early may mean you receive more assistance, especially in the form of grants—or money you won’t need to pay back as long as you finish your degree.
Learn more about what you need to submit below, and plan to have your FAFSA materials ready to go by the first available date for the next academic year.
FAFSA applies to one single academic year, meaning you’ll need to resubmit your FAFSA every year you plan to attend college as an undergraduate, graduate, or professional student.
However, after you’ve filled out the form for the first time, renewing should be easier. After logging into your account, much of your information from the prior year will automatically populate on your new FAFSA application. You will need to update your income and tax information, along with any other personal information that has changed.
As a college student in the US, you are not required to submit a FAFSA form if you have another way to pay for your education, but doing so may help you qualify for a number of financial assistant resources, such as grants or work study programs. Your college may also use the information you provide on FAFSA to determine whether you qualify for any scholarships or grants they have to disburse.
If you want to receive student financial aid, you will need to attend an accredited college or university. That means your institution has been vetted by an independent agency approved by the US Department of Education for certain quality standards. Double check whether your school is accredited through the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Instutions and Programs.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.