What's the FAFSA?

  • Virtually every college in the U.S. will ask you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as part of the enrollment process. If you want to go to college, you'll want to fill out the FAFSA.

    What is the FAFSA?

    The FAFSA is a form that you submit to the U.S. government to determine whether you are eligible to receive federal money for college. That money comes in two kinds – grants (which do not have to be repaid) and loans (which do). Generally speaking, the less money your family makes, the more financial aid you should be eligible for. You can use the FAFSA4caster to get a rough estimate of how much financial aid you can expect to receive.

    Why does the FAFSA matter? 

    An important step in preparing for college is figuring out how you will afford it. The FAFSA tells you how much federal money you can receive. But that's not all. Many other sources of financial aid, such as state funds and private scholarships, base their awards on information in your FAFSA. (Onlineschools.org reviews many of these other sources of financial aid.) The Tuition-Free Community College Plan, for example, requires you to be eligible for a Pell Grant – which is determined by the FAFSA.

    What information will I need to fill out the FAFSA? 

    The FAFSA will ask for financial documents relating to either you or your family, depending on whether you qualify as an independent or a dependent student. These materials include:

    • Most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned
    • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
    • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)

    The FAFSA application provides more details on which documents are necessary. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and make sure you and your parents start saving all records of household income now!

    How can I get help filling out the FAFSA? 

    Financial forms can be intimidating for everyone. The great news is that several organizations have already helped hundreds of students fill out their FAFSAs – and are ready to help you next. The American Student Assistance College Planning Center takes walk-ins or appointments at the Central Boston Public Library in Copley Square. The uAspire Center for College Affordability offers drop-in FAFSA and financial advising at their Downtown Crossing location.

    Additionally, RCC – one of the colleges participating in the Tuition-Free Community College Plan – provides free FAFSA assistance to students and families. The RCC Office of Financial Aid offers these consultations by walk-in or appointment, M-F, 9am-5pm, evenings and Saturday by appointment.