The FAFSA (Federal Application for Financial Student Aid) is synonymous with the college application process. Despite its rather arduous reputation, the FAFSA is key to determining how much – and what type – of aid your child will receive. It can’t be stressed enough to fill out the FAFSA as early as you can. Not just to get it out of the way and to colleges for which your child is applying, but for other reasons we’ll get to in a minute. Check out our resources for what you’ll need to file the FAFSA.

So why is this form so important?

Federal Aid Determination

As the name says, the FAFSA determines the amount of Federal Aid for which your family will qualify. The Federal government provides different opportunities to assist students in paying for their college tuition: Loans, Grants, and Work-Study Programs. If you don’t file the FAFSA, you will not qualify for these programs.


A grant is money awarded to your child in order to pay for college tuition and expenses. Grants do not need to be paid back, as long as you satisfy your enrollment and degree requirements. The most common grant is the Federal Pell Grant.

Work-Study Programs

These programs are just what they sound like: your child will have a part-time job with their college to help defray costs of attendance. These programs are desirable for students as colleges tend to be much more flexible around class and exam times than a regular job. There is also the option of having your student’s wages applied to their tuition or paid directly to them to pay for rent, food, or incidentals. Find out more about Federal Work Study.


Need we say more? While your FAFSA will not have any bearing on your interest rate, it will be the determining factor in how much you are allowed to borrow.


Onward to college

College Aid Determination

Even though the Form may be intended for the use of the US government, the FAFSA is used by your child’s intended college(s) to determine need and merit-based aid provided by the college itself. Due to its thorough questions and calculations, the FAFSA is a universal form for colleges and universities to determine a prospective student’s need for aid.

What about merit-based aid?

You may find that your star student missed out on a merit scholarship because the FAFSA wasn’t filed. Many schools use the Form as a determinant for merit scholarships as well. Even though getting the aid itself is entirely dependent on your child’s grades, SAT scores, beautiful voice, or skill on the football field, you won’t see on the tuition bill financial aid award letter unless that FAFSA is filed. It’s also important to make sure you file it as soon as possible, too. Many schools award merit and need-based awards on a first come, first served basis. That means that the sooner you have all of your financials submitted, the sooner you can be awarded your scholarship money.