FAFSA- The Free Application for Federal Student Aid

FAFSA- The Free Application for Federal Student Aid

July 29, 2022

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA is a standardized application form for student aid used by the federal government, state governments and most colleges and universities.  Each year, the application submission window opens on October 1st.  Currently, applications for academic year 2021-2022 can be submitted.  Then again on October 1, 2021, the application window will open for the 2022-2023 academic year. 

There a number of application deadlines that may be applicable.  For the 2021-2022 academic year, the federal deadline is 12:00 am CST on June 30, 2021.  Some states have earlier FAFSA deadlines.  For instance, California’s deadline is March 2, 2021.  And some schools have their own unique deadlines.  Missing the deadline(s) is not a good thing as a student will be unlikely to qualify for federal, state or school aid until the next academic year. 

Undergraduate, graduate and professional students may apply for student aid using the FAFSA.  Eligibility requirements include having a Social Security number or Alien Registration Number, obtaining a high school diploma or equivalent and male students must have registered with Selective Service.

Eligible colleges and universities include 4 year, 2 year, less than 2 year institutions that offer degree and certificate programs.  This is includes associate degrees, not just bachelors.  This includes public, private non-profit and private for-profit universities and institutions. 

The types of federal aid that may be awarded based on the information included on a FAFSA include Federal Pell Grants, Federal Stafford Loans, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Federal Work-Study Program.

The sooner applications are received, the better.  This is because, in some instances, a particular type of aid may run out.  Also, schools often distribute student aid on a first come, first serve basis.  Data does show that the number of families filing the FAFSA have declined in recent years.   However, due to the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is the possibility of an increased need for financial aid.

Filing a FAFSA is a simple process.  However, it does take some time and forethought.  First thing to know is that there is no cost to file a FAFSA.  Filing can be done in one of three ways, it can be done online at FAFSA.gov, it can be done using a mobile app available for both iOS and Android or a paper application can be submitted.  You will need some personal identifying information of the student applying, name, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number (if you have one), etc.  Tax return information will be required along with balance information on bank accounts, investment accounts, etc.  If the student is a dependent, then the parent’s information will also be required.

While completing the FAFSA, at least one school must be listed.  When completing the FAFSA online or using the mobile app, up to 10 schools can be listed.  When completing the paper application, up to 4 schools can be listed.  The schools listed will use the information submitted on the FAFSA to determine the types and amounts of aid for which a student qualifies.  For federal aid, it does not matter the order in which the schools are listed.  However, some states require a specified order of the schools listed.  California for instance, does not require a specific ordering of the listed schools.  However, in order to be considered for state aid, California does require an aid-eligible state school to be listed.  Nevada has a similar requirement. 

A common myth is that submitting a FAFSA will negatively impact the ability to qualify for financial aid or be accepted into a particular school.  The truth is, the FAFSA can only help.  Even if a family is well off, the only way to know if a student qualifies for aid is to submit the FAFSA.  Don’t assume that just because a family may have the means to pay for college that aid is not available.  Also, some schools require a FAFSA to be submitted to receive merit based aid such as scholarships.  The information contained in the FAFSA will not cause a school to revoke a scholarship.    

The internet can be a wealth of information on the FAFSA.  Two very good resources are FAFSA.gov, mentioned earlier and savingforcollege.com.  Another excellent resource can your student’s guidance counselor.

Located in Truckee, CA, Pacific Crest Wealth Planning believes retirement & financial planning should be a highly personalized process. Effective planning may enable you to enjoy the freedom of your retirement years. Without it, it may take everything you have just to get by.  As a fiduciary, we are obligated to put our client’s interest before our own.  Please feel free to contact one of our CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® practitioners at (530) 563-5250 or by email.


This article is meant to be general in nature and should not be construed as investment or financial advice related to your personal situation.  Please consult your financial advisor prior to making financial decisions. 


John Manocchio (CA Insurance Lic#0H73423) is a Registered Representative and Investment Adviser Representative with/and offers securities and advisory services through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products and services offered through CES Insurance Agency.