The Free Application for federal Student Aid is also known as FAFSA, which is a form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students to determine the eligibility of student financial aid (including the Pell Grant, Federal student loans and Federal Work-Study).
Despite its name, the application is the gateway to be considered for the nine federal student aid programs. The U.S. Department of Education begins accepting the application beginning January 1st of each year for the upcoming academic year. Each application period is 18 months and most federal, state and institutional aid is provided on a First come First served basis. Students are advised to submit FAFSA as early as possible for consideration for maximum financial assistance.
Applicants that have completed FAFSA in previous years may submit a renewal FAFSA. Any information that has changed must be updated annually. FAFSA consists of numerous questions regarding a student’s assets, income and dependency. These are entered into a formula that determines the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). A number of factors are used in determining the EFC including the household size, income, numbers of students from household in college and assets. This information is required because of the expectation that parents will contribute to their child’s education whether it is true or not. FAFSA does not have questions related to student or family race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or religion.
A student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the FAFSA responses, is forwarded to the student. The student should review the SAR carefully for errors and make corrections if any. An electronic version of the SAR (called an ISIR) is made available to the colleges/universities selected by the students on FAFSA. The ISIR is also sent to state agencies that award need-based aid. Some colleges also require the CSS Profile to be filled out as early as the same deadline as an early admissions or early decision application deadline. The CSS is a fee based product of the College Board and usually concerns with funds disbursed by a college rather than federal funds.