FASFA and Financial Aid for Dummies


Jenna Wiley, Editor-in-Chief

For those of you entering the world of higher education, financing your future can seem like a daunting task. While some feel well-versed in the world of financial aid, others approach this topic with intimidation and unintentional ignorance. Do not fear! Take the time now to educate yourself, and find that the FAFSA is not as scary as it’s made out to be. 


What is FASFA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application applies to current and incoming college students and determines one’s eligibility for financial aid. If you want to receive any form of aid from the federal government, this is the form you will fill out.


Am I eligible?

Eligibility varies from person to person. Each college or university gives out different amounts of money to different candidates. It is recommended to apply for FAFSA even if you feel unsure if you qualify for financial aid. There are different layers to eligibility in terms of how much money one can receive. Therefore, there is no harm done in applying. Generally, eligibility is based on financial need, US citizenship or eligibility of a non-citizen, a valid social security number and proof of enrollment. 


How fast is the process?

The FAFSA form is actually incredibly easy to complete. If you come prepared with all of the necessary materials listed on the form, it should take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Beware, you cannot fill out this form without up-to-date and detailed information, so take time to prepare beforehand.


What is an EFC?

EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. The information you include in your FAFSA such as family income and tax information determine your EFC. After determining your expected family contribution, the financial aid office at the school in question will subtract your EFC from the COA (cost of attendance) to determine how much financial aid you will receive. Again, the amount will vary for each school.


Fasfa is not a “one time thing”

Most first-time financial aid applicants ask themselves this question. The answer is no! In order to keep one’s eligibility, one must reapply for financial aid every term. Every October, the new FAFSA becomes available to students and to avoid deadlines, experts recommend filling it out as soon as possible.


You won’t know how much money you are getting right away

For those who are not experts in the world of financial aid, terms such as FAFSA, EFC and COA seem ambiguous. The FAFSA is the form you fill out for eligibility for financial aid. Solely filling out the form does not guarantee financial aid for the applicant.