What are the Requirements for FAFSA?
Most students will likely require some type of financial assistance to pay for school. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the ticket that can open the door to potential financial assistance to pursue your higher education goals. To apply for financial aid using the FAFSA, you must meet specific requirements.
These requirements include meeting basic eligibility criteria, applying before the deadline, and adhering to enrollment restrictions.
If you want to learn more about filling out the FAFSA, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will help you better understand the process of applying for federal financial assistance.
Who’s Eligible to Receive Federal Financial Aid?
If you want to apply to receive federal financial aid, you must meet specific eligibility requirements. The basic requirements include:1
- You or your family demonstrate financial need
- You’re a U.S. citizen or a qualified noncitizen
- You have a valid Social Security number
- You have a high school diploma, GED, or other recognized equivalent
Outside of these basic requirements, there are additional criteria for students who have a criminal conviction and students with intellectual disabilities.
Please note that these are the requirements for applying to receive aid. Meeting the FAFSA requirements to apply doesn’t guarantee that you’ll receive federal financial aid.
What Documents Do You Need to Include with Your FAFSA?
When applying for FAFSA, you’ll need to include your (or your parents’) tax return for the previous year. For example, if you’re applying for aid for the 2022-23 school year, you must include your tax return for 2020. Male students between the ages of 18 to 25 must also be registered with the Selective Service System to apply for federal aid.
What Date Do You Need to Complete the FAFSA By?
The FAFSA needs to be submitted with all of the required paperwork by June 30th of the award year.2 This can be a little confusing because higher education works with a budget year. The higher education calendar goes from July 1 to June 30, with FAFSA applications opening on October 1st.
So, if you’re applying for aid for the 2022-23 school year, the FAFSA would need to be completed between October 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. That’s a pretty wide range, but it covers the full academic year.
Because there are limits to certain types of aid, such as Pell Grants, the earlier you can submit your application, the more likely you are to maximize your aid eligibility.
What About School or State Aid?
Often, your state or school may have a different financial aid deadline. You should check with each of these individually to make sure you’re submitting the FAFSA and any other required paperwork in time to meet the cutoff. You don’t want to miss out on these financial aid opportunities.
What Enrollment Requirements Must You Meet?
To be eligible to receive federal financial aid, you must meet certain enrollment requirements. Some of the specifics include:
- Full-time enrollment – Full-time enrollment for undergraduates is 12 credit hours per semester. If you attend an institution that’s on a trimester or quarter system, you’ll need to speak with your school’s financial aid office for specifics on enrollment requirements. Generally speaking, graduate students are considered full-time when enrolled in 9 credit hours.
- Part-time enrollment – Part-time students might also be eligible for federal or institutional financial aid. Typically, at least half-time enrollment is required. The amount of aid you’re eligible for may be prorated to correspond with your enrollment status.
- Satisfactory academic progress – Your school will have specific criteria that define what constitutes satisfactory academic progress. Typically, you must pass your classes and move through the program at a reasonable pace to retain your financial aid eligibility.
- Program type – Lastly, you must be enrolled in an eligible certificate or degree program. This means you’re not likely to be able to receive financial aid to take one or two classes for personal interest or gain. Instead, you typically must be enrolled in a specific program.
Who Should Fill Out a FAFSA?
Everyone eligible to fill out the FAFSA should do so. You might discover that you’re eligible for financial assistance that you didn’t expect. Some types of aid, such as grants and scholarships, are essentially free money to use toward your education. You don’t have to repay these types of aid, and they can give you a significant boost toward paying for school.
Do You Have to Accept All of the Aid You’re Eligible for?
No. It’s entirely up to you to accept or decline the aid you’re offered. You also don’t have to accept the full amount of available aid.
For example, if you’re eligible for $20,000 in student loans, but you only need $10,000, you can request just what you need. Taking out more loans may help cover expenses in the short term, but can result in significant loan payments after you finish school.
What Types of Financial Aid Might Be Available?
When you fill out the FAFSA, you’re applying for several types of assistance. Your application will be processed, and you’ll receive a notification of what kind of financial aid you’re eligible to receive and how much of each type you might receive.
The FAFSA helps you apply for federal student loans, grants, and work-study programs. It might also be used by your state or institution to determine your eligibility for their financial assistance options.
There are two types of student loans:
The FAFSA serves as your application for federal student loans. These loans typically have lower interest rates and more repayment options than private loans. There are four different types of federal student loans:3
- Direct Subsidized Loans – Undergraduate and graduate students that demonstrate financial need may qualify for subsidized loans. The federal government pays the interest on a subsidized loan while you’re in school and for the first six months after you graduate.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans – Students who don’t meet financial need requirements might still qualify for unsubsidized loans. The biggest difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans is that you’re responsible for paying all of the interest on unsubsidized loans.
- Direct PLUS Loans – PLUS loans are for graduate students or the parents of undergraduate students. These are typically a last option meant to cover educational expenses that other aid won’t cover. A credit check is usually required to qualify for a PLUS loan.
- Direct Consolidation Loans – If you have other federal loans, you might eventually be able to combine them into a consolidation loan that allows you to make a single payment each month.
When you receive the results of your FAFSA, make sure you consider all aspects of the aid you’re eligible for to ensure you’re making the best choices.
Unlike loans, federal grants do not have to be repaid when you complete school. There are a few different grants available through the federal government, including:4
- Pell Grants – Undergraduates who demonstrate significant financial need might be eligible for a Pell Grant.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants – Some Pell Grant recipients may qualify for further funding under the Supplemental Educational Opportunity program.
- TEACH grants – If you’re pursuing a degree in a high-demand teaching field, you might be eligible for a TEACH grant. There are specific service requirements pertaining to where you must work upon degree completion with this grant.
- Service grants – Students who served in the U.S. military in Iraq or Afghanistan may be eligible for service grants.
Not all students will qualify for grants. However, if you do, make sure that you fully understand the enrollment and other requirements so that you don’t miss out on the opportunity.
Students who qualify for federal work-study might have the opportunity to work on campus to earn money to pay for educational expenses. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students can all qualify for federal work-study.
Keep in mind, there are typically limits to the number of hours you can work while participating in work-study programs.
Finally, you might be eligible to receive financial assistance through scholarships. Many different entities offer scholarships, such as:
- Colleges and universities
- Churches and faith groups
- Towns and villages
- Nonprofit organizations
- Private companies
Scholarships might also be available for many different reasons, including:
- Academic merit
- Athletic ability
- Special interests
- Financial need
You’ll typically need to fill out a separate application for scholarships and meet specific requirements. It’s also important to note that receiving a scholarship may impact your eligibility for other financial aid.
Make Your Higher Education Goals a Reality
Figuring out how to pay for an undergraduate or graduate degree is difficult. However, filling out the FAFSA is quite simple. If you’re eligible to apply for financial aid, you should do so. You’re under no obligation to accept all of the aid you might qualify for. Instead, the results of your FAFSA can help you see the full extent of options available for you.
At Alliant International University, our helpful, friendly financial aid department staff can help answer any questions you have about paying for your education. Alliant students might be eligible for many different types of aid, including loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study. Contact us today to learn more about affording an Alliant education.
- “What Are the Deadlines for Filling Out the FAFSA Form?” U.S. Department of Education. 2020. https://studentaid.gov/2122/help/deadlines. Accessed January 28, 2022.
- “Basic Eligibility Criteria.” U.S. Department of Education. 2020. https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/eligibility/requirements. Accessed January 28, 2022.
- “What Types of Federal Student Loans are Available?” U.S. Department of Education. 2020. https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/loans. Accessed January 28, 2022.
- “Federal Grant Programs.” U.S. Department of Education. 2020. https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/federal-grant-programs.pdf. Accessed January 28, 2022.