Any student considering post-secondary education may want to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), which is the first step in trying to qualify for federal funding for your education. The application details what types of federal funding you may be able to secure for schooling and related expenses. The 2019–2020 FAFSA® form is currently available and open for application by potential students.
Completing the FAFSA® is free, and the information contained in it may also be used by your state or college to determine eligibility for nonfederal aid. When the online application has been submitted, it will generally take 3–5 days to process. If a paper application is sent in, it will take about 7–10 days to process.
Eligibility for financial aid through the FAFSA® ranges widely. There must be a financial need, which is viewed broadly and can include almost anyone who cannot pay outright for the entirety of their college education. Applicants must also be U.S. citizens or “eligible noncitizens” and must be enrolled or plan to enroll in a qualifying degree or certificate program.
You will need to know what college or school you plan on attending prior to completing the FAFSA®. The application process begins on October 1 of the year preceding the year for which the funding is desired. The federal financial aid is on a first-come, first-served basis, so it is a good idea to apply as early as possible to maximize the amount of funding you are eligible to receive. States and college deadlines may also vary, so it is important to know their deadlines, as well.
The federal student aid packages are developed using FAFSA® information and may include grants for college, work-study programs, federal student loans, and potential state or school aid. Online applications may be submitted at FAFSA.gov. State deadlines may be determined here.