Why You HAVE To Do the FAFSA

College is expensive, there's no denying that. Tuition, fees, room and board, textbooks, class supplies, food--it adds up quickly. How do you pay for it all? If you're like the 22,000,000 students who apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year, you need help. But just like college, you have to apply for it. 

While it might take some time to complete, you have to do the FAFSA if you want any kind of federal financial aid. Grants, loans and work-study all require that you complete the FAFSA. Even if you don't think you need loans, many colleges and universities offer scholarships based on the FAFSA and won't award scholarships if you haven't completed the FAFSA.

Because the FAFSA evaluates your family's financial situation, it can be a little complicated. Your high school guidance counselor or the finance office at the college you want to attend should be able to help you. If you have more questions, you can call the FAFSA customer service line at 1--800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

Quick Tips & Facts

  • Deadline: June 30. (March 2 if you live in California and want to apply for the Cal Grant)
  • FAFSA homepage: https://studentaid.ed.gov
  • It's best if you parents do their taxes before completing the FAFSA (unless you're married or an emancipated minor).
  • You CANNOT receive federal financial aid without completing the FAFSA.
  • List the schools on your FAFSA from most expensive to least expensive (they base the amount of your financial aid on the first school listed so you want to list the most expensive school first).
  • Requirements for the FAFSA are different for undergraduate students and graduate students; be sure you follow the correct requirements for your level of study.
  • You have to reapply each year.