What is the FAFSA?

Understanding College Financial Aid

Earning a college education is one of the best investments in your future. Today, college students face a "perfect storm" – college tuition is climbing, the economy is weakening, and credit is tightening. Figuring out how to pay for a college education is more challenging than ever before. But one thing hasn't changed – filling out the government's aid form is still complicated and time-consuming.

Recent studies have shown that many "non-traditional students" (part-time adult students who are working full-time while pursuing a quality education at a college, university, or institution of higher education) typically do not apply for federal financial aid. Many students are under the assumption that federal aid is reserved for the younger, more traditional student. However, federal financial aid generally does not have any age restrictions and is available for many types of higher education programs, including technical, trade, part-time, and online.

Fortunately, more than $200 billion in financial aid is available to help pay for college. Filing your federal financial aid application, known as the FAFSA, is the first step in applying for more than 90% of this money.

Completing the FAFSA

The federal government grants need-based aid to students of all ages pursuing many different degree types, provided that they qualify for a minimum of a "half-time" attendance. This student aid is awarded based on an intricate financial analysis. How much you can expect to receive depends on your financial situation and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) requires to determine your EFC. The government conducts a "need analysis" based on financial information such as income, assets, and other family information, all of which you will be asked to provide on your application. To be considered for federal financial aid, you must submit a FAFSA on time.

The FAFSA is the application most colleges use to determine eligibility for federal, state, and college-sponsored financial aid, including grants and educational loans.

Additionally, most states, colleges, and universities use the FAFSA to award other types of aid, including state- and college-sponsored financial aid like grants and loans.

Simplifying the FAFSA Process with TuitionHelp™

The FAFSA is a complicated application that takes time to complete. Many students often make mistakes when filling out their application – mistakes that cost them thousands of dollars in federal financial aid.

To help simplify this process and ensure that you maximize your eligibility for student aid, your TuitionHelp™ Student Aid Advisor will walk you through the application from beginning to end. To start this process, your Advisor will collect the required personal financial and academic information from you over the phone in as little as 20 minutes!


Nearly every student is eligible for some form of financial aid, including a low-interest Federal Direct Loan, regardless of income or circumstances, provided that you:

  • are a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or an eligible non-citizen;
  • have a valid Social Security number;
  • have a high school diploma or GED;
  • are registered with the U.S. Selective Service (if you are a male age 18 to 25);
  • complete a FAFSA promising to use any federal aid for educational purposes;
  • do not owe refunds on any federal student grants;
  • are not in default on any student loans; and
  • have not been found guilty of the sale or possession of illegal drugs during a period when you received federal student aid.


Federal aid is limited and much of it is offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier you file, the better your chances of accessing the most financial aid possible.

Since many states, colleges, and universities have filing deadlines as early as the first weeks in January, filing your application as close to January 1st is highly recommended. Your TuitionHelp™ Student Aid Advisor can assist you in understanding and meeting your deadlines.