Filling out and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the key to getting financial aid to help pay for college if you or your family can’t foot the entire bill.
The Education Department provides over $125 billion in aid to students each year. While the supply of cash isn't infinite, all eligible financial aid applicants can expect to get a piece of the pie.
The process — and the application itself — can be confusing, so here is a FAFSA faq that provides answers to questions you may have.
Before you start
1. Is the FAFSA really free?
2. What is the FAFSA and why is it important?
3. What if I don't qualify for need-based aid? Should I still file the FAFSA?
4. How long will it take to fill out the FAFSA?
5. When should I fill out the FAFSA?
6. How do I fill out the FAFSA?
7. What documents do I need to file the FAFSA?
In the process
8. Am I an independent or dependent student?
9. My parents are separated or divorced. Which parent is responsible for filling out the FAFSA?
10. I can’t get my parent’s financial information. Can I still apply for aid?
11. Is there a way to know how much aid I will receive?
12. I’m already attending college. Do I need to complete another FAFSA this year?
13. My parents haven’t filed their taxes. What information should I use?
14. I'm not sure where I want to go to college. Where should I send the FAFSA results to?
After submitting your application
15. When will I receive my FAFSA results?
16. Can I make changes to the FAFSA after I submit it?
17. How do I accept or decline a financial aid offer?