The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a critical part of the college application process. But unlike brainstorming your college essay, this component is relatively straightforward—and filling it out can be key for affording the schools on your list.

Historically, the form has taken most families less than an hour to complete, and now, thanks to the FAFSA Simplification Act, the process may be even faster. But it does require a little bit of work before you fill out the form. Knowing how the FAFSA works, what information is needed, and how the form considers your family finances will make actually filling out the form a breeze.  

Unfortunately, it’s all too common to assume you won’t qualify for aid because of your family’s financial situation, background, or other personal circumstances so you skip the application entirely. According to an analysis by the National College Attainment Network, 47% of the class of 2022 who were eligible for Pell Grants (a type of grant awarded to students displaying financial need) did not complete the FAFSA. This meant that a whopping $3.6 billion in free grant money was left on the table. 

The FAFSA is also useful to fill out even if you don’t think your family qualifies for need-based aid because it also opens up access to non-need-based aid like unsubsidized federal loans and scholarships. Here, test your knowledge of the FAFSA by taking this quiz. 



Bottom line? The FAFSA could help alleviate some of the financial burden of college, and you should complete it every year you are in college because most people qualify for some aid.

FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover® Student Loans.

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