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Antonio Tijerino, President & CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation

Accessing Financial Aid: The FAFSA

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The largest provider of financial aid in the country is the federal
government. In 2019, the federal government made 129.5 billion dollars in financial aid available through grants
and subsidized loans to eligible students and disbursed 30 billion dollars in Pell-grants.

Eligibility for FAFSA

  • Citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Degree-seeking
  • Must have a valid SSN
  • Not be in default on a student loan
  • Be registered with the Selective Service (If you are male)
  • No Drug convictions

The FAFSA-When & Which One?

Which FAFSA do I need to fill out?

You will begin your first year in college in 2021.
Thus, you will fill out the 2021-2022 FAFSA

When is fafsa available?

FAFSA becomes available October 1, 2020. Complete it as soon as possible!

What taxes will I need?

You need to use the Federal Tax Return that has already been completed from two years prior. You will use the 2019 Tax Return

Do I just have to do it once?

The FAFSA must be filed each year your need financial aid. Good news, the FAFSA is available on October 1 of each year.
Be on the lookout, many schools have priority deadlines for FAFSA applicants. Many organizations use FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for private scholarships.

Applying for Financial Aid: FAFSA

First Steps: Make a FSA ID

Use irs Data Retrieval Tool

  • Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool which will import your tax data into FAFSA.
  • Watch for your Student Aid Report (SAR), where EFC is included
    • Note: Parents without a social security number can still fill out the FAFSA, using all zeros in place of a SSN. They must sign a paper signature page instead of signing the FAFSA electronically. Allow extra time for this process (up to 4 weeks).

TIP: Get an estimate of federal financial aid eligibility.

Common misconceptions:

  • “My ethnicity or age makes me ineligible for federal student aid.”
  • “I support myself, so I don’t have to include parent info on the FAFSA.”
  • “The FAFSA is too hard to fill out.”

FAFSA Common Mistakes

  • Paying to complete the FAFSA
  • Not completing the FAFSA
  • Not using the correct website
  • Not getting your FSA ID ahead of time
  • Waiting to fill out the FAFSA, be mindful of school and state deadlines
  • Not using your FSA ID to start the FAFSA
  • Not reading carefully, accuracy is important
  • Inputting incorrect information, name and SSN must match!
  • Not reporting parent information
  • Listing only one college—you can list up to ten!
  • Not signing the FAFSA—this will delay your application

Tips for Success

  • Create your FSA ID as soon as possible. Go to fsaid.ed.gov
  • Gather the documents needed to apply before you start the FAFSA
  • Use the DRT, Data Retrieval Tool, to automatically load your IRS data into the FAFSA
  • Read all instructions carefully
  • Apply early, as soon after October 1 as possible
  • List up to 10 colleges on your FAFSA

Remember to sign the FAFSA

  • Have your parents sign the FAFSA
  • Read all email from FSA carefully and fully
  • Keep copies for your records

What Happens After the FAFSA Submission?

  • Institutions will take into account your family’s EFC (Expected Family Contribution) as calculated on the online Student Aid Report (SAR)
  • Financial aid packets can be developed from all institutions where the student was admitted
  • If schools are not able to meet full need, students will need to rely on other aid alternatives (such as outside scholarships, other loans, work, etc.).
  • It is important to compare all financial aid packets available and keep in mind what the student is looking for in a college
  • Check your email on a regular basis for updates, corrections or important notices!

Additional Financial Aid Forms

  • CSS Profile
  • Institutional Applications for Student Aid
  • State Applications for Student Aid
  • Non-Custodial Parent Profile
  • Non-Custodial Waiver forms


Loans sound scary, but your education is a life-long investment! If student/parent loans are offered in a financial aid packet, families should understand the different types:

  • Subsidized: no interest is accumulated while in school
  • Unsubsidized: interest accrues while in college

Federal Direct Loans

  • Government guaranteed, annual limits apply to loans to students
  • Unsubsidized – qualify regardless of family income
  • Subsidized – require student and family to show financial need

Federal PLUS Loans

  • For parents and graduate students
  • Fixed interest rates
  • Can cover the cost of education, COA
  • Not need-based
  • Unsubsidized (interest accrues while in college)

Private (student) loans

• Can cover the cost of tuition and other eligible educated-related expenses, COA
• Credit based and students might need a cosigner

How much money can I borrow in federal student loans?

Why should I take out federal student loans?

  • Federal student loans offer many benefits compared to other options you may consider when paying for college
  • The interest rate on federal student loans is almost always lower than that on private loans—and much lower than that on a credit card!
  • You don’t need a credit check or a cosigner to get most federal student loans.
  • Federal student loans offer flexible repayment plans and options to postpone your loan payments if you’re having trouble making payments.
  • If you work in certain jobs, you may be eligible to have a portion of your federal student loans forgiven if you meet certain conditions.