FAFSA is the acronym for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This financial aid form is probably the single most important form you’ll ever complete during your college career as a student or as a parent. In order to qualify for financial aid, you will need to complete this application EVERY year you are enrolled, at least half time, in school. So… keep copies!
The processor of the FAFSA form uses a federal formula to determine your expected family contribution (EFC) which is basically what you and your family can “afford” to give towards college tuition. In addition to the EFC, some schools will perform additional analyses to determine eligibility for the school’s own aid programs. Either way, they will want to know how much money you (or your parents) earned in the past few years, savings/checking account information, marital status, and more. Theoretically, your EFC is not based on the cost of the school but instead your family’s financial status.
Once your EFC has been determined, you and your parents are responsible for paying that amount. Your financial aid package will make up the difference between the cost of attending and your EFC. For example, if you are applying to a school that costs $20,000 and your EFC is $15,000, the school will give you a financial aid packet for $5,000. You and your parents will be responsible for the $15,000.
For more information and to apply online, visit the FAFSA website: www.fafsa.ed.gov/.