FAFSA: Applying for Aid | Federal Student Aid

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is the first step toward getting federal aid for college, career school, or graduate school.

We provide more than $150 billion in grants, work-study funds, and loans each year, but you have to complete the FAFSA® to see if you can get any of that money.

FAFSA: Applying for Aid

To apply for federal student aid, you need to complete the FAFSA® (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

If you’re ready to fill out the FAFSA® now, go for it!
fill out fafsa button
If you’d like more information first, we can help.

Completing and submitting the FAFSA® is free and quick, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.

In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.



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Why should I fill out the FAFSA®?
When do I fill out the FAFSA®?
Can I get an early estimate of my aid?
How do I fill out the FAFSA®?
What happens after I fill out the FAFSA®?

Why should I fill out the FAFSA®?

If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you could be missing out on a lot of financial aid! We’ve heard a number of reasons students think they shouldn’t complete the FAFSA. Here are a few:

  • “I (or my parents) make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.”
  • “Only students with good grades get financial aid.”
  • “The FAFSA is too hard to fill out.”
  • “I’m too old to qualify for financial aid.”

If you think any of these statements apply to you, then you should read Myths About Financial Aid. The reality is, EVERYONE who's getting ready to go to college or career school should fill out the FAFSA!  


When do I fill out the FAFSA®?

The 2016–17 FAFSA has been available since Jan. 1, 2016, and the 2017–18 FAFSA launched on Oct. 1, 2016.

There are different FAFSA deadlines for different programs:

Aid Program

Deadline Information

Federal student aid

  • For the 2017–18 year, you can apply between Oct. 1, 2016, and June 30, 2018.
  • For the 2016–17 year, you can apply between Jan. 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017.

However, there are a few federal student aid programs that have limited funds, so be sure to apply as soon as you can once the FAFSA is available for the year you’ll be attending school.

State student aid

You can find state deadlines at fafsa.gov or on the paper or PDF FAFSA. Note that several states have financial aid programs with limited funds and therefore have a deadline of "as soon as possible (after the FAFSA becomes available)."

College or career school aid

Check the school’s website or contact its financial aid office. School deadlines are usually early in the year (often in February or March, although some may be even earlier now that the FAFSA is available in October).

Other financial aid

Some programs other than government or school aid require that you file the FAFSA. For instance, you can’t get certain private scholarships unless you’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant—and you can’t find out whether you’re eligible for a Pell Grant unless you file a FAFSA. If the private scholarship’s application deadline is in early to mid-January, you’ll need to submit your FAFSA before that deadline.

As you can see, it’s a good idea to file the FAFSA as soon as it’s available so you don’t miss out on anything.

You have to fill out the FAFSA® every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid.


Can I get an early estimate of my aid?

You sure can! If you’re not ready to file a FAFSA, you can use FAFSA4caster to estimate your federal student aid


How do I fill out the FAFSA®?

There are several ways to file:

  • Online at fafsa.gov is faster and easier than using paper.
  • If you need a paper FAFSA, you can
    • download a PDF FAFSA or
    • order a print-out of the PDF FAFSA by calling 1-877-4-ED-PUBS (1-877-433-7827).
  • Ask the financial aid office at your college or career school if you can file it there. Some schools will use special software to submit your FAFSA for you.               

Need some tips on filling out the FAFSA? We’ve got them! 


What happens after I fill out the FAFSA®?

Applying isn’t the last step; your FAFSA has to be processed, and then you get an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which your college or career school uses to figure out how much aid you can get. Find out more about what happens after you fill out the FAFSA, including how aid is calculated and when and how your aid will be paid out.