Free Application for Federal Student Aid
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is used to apply for federal student financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study. In addition, it is used by most states and schools to award non-federal student financial aid such as the HOPE Scholarship.
The first step in this process is to apply for a PIN. Your PIN can be used each year to electronically apply for federal student aid and to access your Federal Student Aid records online. If you receive a PIN, you agree not to share it with anyone. Your PIN serves as your electronic signature and provides access to your personal records, so you should never give your PIN to anyone, including commercial services that offer to help you complete your FAFSA. Be sure to keep your PIN in a safe place. You may apply for a PIN by clicking here or below.
How does it work? Completing the FAFSA is the first step in the financial aid process. Once you submit it, your information is processed. An electronic copy of your information is sent to all of the schools you listed on your application (Step Five in FAFSA on the Web, Step Six on the Paper FAFSA). A report, called a Student Aid Report, or SAR, is sent to you. It is important to review your SAR when you receive it to make sure all of your information is correct and to provide any necessary corrections or additional information.
Your information is entered into a formula from the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, and the result is your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. The EFC measures your family's financial strength, and is used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. If your information is complete, your SAR will contain your EFC.
The schools you list on your application (Step Five in FAFSA on the Web, Step Six on the Paper FAFSA) can request your EFC along with the rest of your information. They use the EFC to prepare a financial aid package to help you meet your financial need. Financial need is the difference between your EFC and your school's cost of attendance (which can include living expenses), as determined by the school. If you believe that you have special circumstances that should be taken into account, such as unusual medical or dental expenses or a significant change in income from one year to the next, contact the financial aid administrator at the schools to which you are applying. If you do not qualify for financial aid, that does not affect receiving the HOPE if you qualify with your GPA. Any financial aid you are eligible to receive will be paid to you through your school. Typically, your school will first use the aid to pay tuition, fees, and room and board (if provided by the school). Any remaining need is paid to you for your other expenses.