FAFSA- Free Application for Federal Student Aid

In 1990, Congress passed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.  One of the provisions of the Act mandated the use of a single, free application form for all Federal student aid.  That form (FAFSA) continues to be used today and is the key to obtaining all types of Federal student aid.  Financial aid is offered in the form of grants, scholarships, student and parent loans and work-study programs.

Eligibility Requirements

There are eligibility requirements for Federal Student Aid.  The requirements are listed below:

  • The student must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. National or an eligible non-citizen.[1]
  • The student must have a valid Social Security Number.
  • The student must have a high school diploma or GED.
  • The student must sign the certification stating that he or she is not in default on any student loan and does not owe money on any Federal grant; the student must also state that the funds will be used for educational purposes.
  • The student has not been found guilty of the possession or sale of illegal drugs while receiving any Federal student aid.
  • The student must maintain satisfactory academic performance.
  • If the student is a male between 18 and 25, he must have registered with the Selective Service System.

You can use FAFSA even if your parents have a good income.  While a large family income may preclude you from getting scholarships and grants, it will not prevent your eligibility for student loans and work study programs. 

The GPA requirements are fairly straight-forward and generous.  As an undergraduate student, you are expected to maintain a cumulative grade point average of 2.00.  Graduate students are expected to maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.00, or whatever the minimum GPA is for that particular graduate program.  If the semester ends with you having a GPA that falls below the minimum requirement, the following semester will be your warning semester. Financial aid continues during the warning semester.  If you fail to meet the required GPA for a second semester, financial aid will be withheld until you can bring your grades up to the minimum standard or submit a successful Satisfactory Academic Progress Report. 

In addition to the eligibility requirements for FAFSA, you must take the required number of class hours each semester to receive aid.  Financial packages are based on undergraduate students taking 12 hours per semester and on graduate and law students taking 9 hours per semester.  For summer enrollment, packages are based on 6 hours of classes for undergraduates, and 9 hours for graduate and law school students.  The minimum hours required to receive financial aid are 6 hours for undergraduates and 5 hours for graduate and law students.  Minimum summer hours are 6 hours for undergraduates, 2 hours for graduate students, and 3 hours for law students.

The Application Process

For the 2017-2018 academic year, you can submit a FAFSA up until June 30, 2018.  For the 2018-2019 academic year, you can apply between October 1, 2017, and June 30, 2019.  You must fill out the FAFSA every year to remain eligible for aid.  The best way to apply is to go to to complete and submit your application.  You will find the application form and the worksheets online.  The form contains multiple questions about your income and any government benefits you may receive.  For the 2017-2018 school year, the application is based on 2015 tax returns.  The form also asks questions about your marital status and whether you are a dependent of your parents or an emancipated adult.  Applicants are permitted to list up to ten schools to receive the results of the processed application.

Make sure you gather all the documents you need to support your application.  You will need to submit your social security number, income tax returns and W-2 forms for the required year, and records of any untaxed income.  You will also need bank statements and records of any investments you have.  You can get more personalized information on where you will find a checklist of documents you may need depending on your citizenship status and dependency. 

 When you fill out your FAFSA application for the 2018-2019 school year, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.  The IRS Tool will speed up your application and prevent mistakes by allowing you to transfer tax information directly into the FAFSA application.  When you come to the financial information section of the application, click “link to IRS” and that link will enable you to pull your tax return data into the FAFSA.

After your application is processed, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR explains your potential eligibility for different types of financial aid and informs you of your family’s expected contribution to funding your education.  Review the SAR very carefully and immediately report any errors you find.

Types of Financial Aid that Fall Under FAFSA

  1. Pell Grant.  You may be eligible for a grant of up to $5,815 if you are low income and your expected family contribution is low.
  2. Stafford Loan.  This is a Federal District subsidized loan with a fixed interest rate of 4.29%.  So long as the student is enrolled in school at least half time (6 hours), the government pays the interest.
  3. Federal Perkins Loan.  A loan, much like the Stafford loan, but the money comes directly from the school.  Schools must be Title IV-eligible schools.  The interest rate is fixed at 5.0%.
  4. Federal Work-Study Program.  This is a program where students get part-time work. The job must be one that qualifies for the program.  The Federal government pays half the student’s wages and the school pays the other half.

Pell Grants and subsidized loans require financial need on the part of the student.  Once you attain a bachelor’s degree or a first professional degree, you are no longer eligible for Pell or for Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants. claims that in 2014, high school students left over 2 Billion Dollars on the table in unclaimed grant money. agrees with that figure.  If you are a college student or high school senior, get busy!  Fill out the application and submit it.  You have nothing to lose!



[1]  An eligible non-citizen is someone with a Permanent Resident Card (I55i); a conditional permanent resident with a conditional green card; the holder of an Arrival-Departure record from Homeland Security with one of the following designations: refugee, asylum granted, parolee, T-visa holder, or Cuban-Haitian entrant.  The last category for eligible non-citizen is someone with a certification from the Department of Health and Human Services designating the person a victim of human trafficking.

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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