In order to qualify for federal financial aid at any U.S. college, you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Below, you'll find our answers to some of the most common questions about federal financial aid applications.

FAFSA questions

What is the FAFSA

The FAFSA is an application form that you must complete and submit to the government in order to receive federal financial aid . Once you fill it out, the government will share your information with your chosen schools. The form asks for information about your family's income, assets, and the size of your household. Your parent(s) or guardian(s) will likely need to supply a lot of this information. Once all of your numbers have been submitted, the government analyzes the information to determine your Student Aid Index, or SAI. The SAI is shared with your schools to determine your aid eligibility.

When Should I Complete the FAFSA?

The government usually makes the new form available on October 1st of each year. Note: The 2024-2025 FAFSA form was not released until December 30, 2023. You must complete a new FAFSA each year you attend school. The schools that you're applying to, or the one you're currently attending, will use your application to put together their financial aid offers for you. You should receive this information by early spring, although award packages are anticipated to be delayed in spring 2024 due to the late FAFSA launch.

School YearFAFSA AvailableSubmission PeriodIncome & Tax Year Used
July 1, 2024 – June 30, 2025 December 30, 2023 December 30, 2023 – June 30, 2024 2022
July 1, 2025 – June 30, 2026 October 1, 2024 October 1, 2024–June 30, 2025  2023

When is the FAFSA due?

The 2024-2025 FAFSA may be submitted between December 30, 2023 and midnight Central Time, June 30, 2024. Keep in mind that many states and colleges have earlier deadlines for applying for state and institutional financial aid. The Princeton Review recommends submitting your FAFSA as soon as possible so that you don't miss out on available aid.

How much money will I get?

The amount of aid you receive can be hard to predict. You can get federal funds, federal or state sponsored grants, student loans , or some combination of all three. You can also apply for a work-study program at your school. These are usually part-time campus jobs. The actual amount of money you receive will vary depending on your school, and your financial situation.

What if I don't get enough money?

If you're completing your FAFSA for the first time, you'll want to compare financial aid offers from all the schools where you're accepted, and make the best decision for you and your family. If you're a returning student, schedule a meeting with the office of financial aid right away. Colleges want to retain and graduate their students, so they are often able to work with you to find a solution.

What's next?

You, and anyone else contributing information to your FAFSA, need a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) to start and complete your FAFSA. You can create an FSA ID before you even begin the college application process; visit the Federal Student Aid website to create your FSA ID and begin your FAFSA.

The Princeton Review recommends submitting your FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1.

Check out our video on everything you want to know about financial aid:

Plus: Rob Franek talks about the cost of college on Good Morning Dallas: