The FAFSA

The pieces of your application:

essays fafsa transcripts letters other pieces of your application

Assessing financial need

Some scholarships take financial need into consideration when deciding who will receive a scholarship.  

How do they determine my financial need?

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the application to receive federal financial aid, but it is also a standardized way of determining a student’s financial need. 

There are several things you should know about filling out the FAFSA application:

  • The FAFSA determines if you are eligible for Financial Aid.
  • The FAFSA application opens every year on January 1.  
  • If you fill out the FAFSA, you may qualify for grant money to help you with educational expenses.
  • The FAFSA is also the application to receive federal student loans.  Don't worry though, if you do not want to take loans, you can always decline them.  So filling out the FAFSA does not require that you take loans.
  • You must be a US citizen, or an eligible non-citizen to apply for the FAFSA application.

What do I do after I apply?

Once you are done with the FAFSA, write down the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) number. You can find your EFC on your Student Aid Report (SAR), which you can see by logging in to fafsa.gov. Your EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your school to calculate the amount of federal student aid you are eligible to receive.

Can you do anything about it?

If you are worried you won't be eligible for scholarships based on your EFC, don't let that deter you from applying. All scholarships evaluate financial need in different ways. So just make sure to do your FAFSA early and then don’t worry about it.