FAFSA Graduate School
FAFSA is short for Free Application for Student Aid and is a form that students need to fill out to receive any financial aid or assistance from the United States Federal Government. FAFSA comes under the purview of the U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, which provides more than $120billion in financial aid to students each year to help fund their college or career school.
FAFSA collects personal and financial information from students and parents and, based on the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and other criteria, awards financial aid to the applicant-student. Typically, the FAFSA form for the following academic year is made available every October and is required to be submitted before the stipulated deadline, which is determined based on the applicant’s state of residence.
A Student applying at a FAFSA graduate school seeking financial assistance from the Federal Government should use FAFSA to determine their eligibility to secure student loans, grants, scholarships, and federal work-study programs.
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What is FAFSA for Graduate School?
FAFSA for Graduate School is for those students applying for financial aid to fund their graduate studies. Aspiring students need to apply for FAFSA to be eligible for federal student loans, grants, or scholarships. In most cases, a student applying for FAFSA for Graduate School will be applying as an independent and are typically eligible for Federal Direct Stafford Loans and Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans, in addition to Work-Study Programs.
- Stafford Loans, better known as Unsubsidized Direct Loans) offer a maximum of $20,500 a year ($40,500 in the case of med schools) at a fixed interest rate of 4.30% (2020-21 school year).
- With Direct PLUS Loans, a student can borrow an amount equal to the school’s Cost Of Attendance (COA) that includes tuition and fees, boarding, books, stationery, transportation, etc., less any other financial aid received. Grad PLUS Loans attract a fixed interest rate of 5.30% (2020-21 school year).
One must note that the FAFSA by itself is not a loan application but a system to determine what sort of financial aid a student qualifies and is eligible for, such as scholarships, grants, or loans.
Difference between FAFSA for Undergrad and FAFSA for Graduate School
While essentially the same, there are two large differences between FAFSA for Undergraduate School and FAFSA for Graduate School. The foremost dissimilarity is that a student applying for FAFSA Graduate School is likely to be considered independent (from parents) and is therefore required to submit his or her financial information at the time of making an application. FAFSA Undergraduate applicants are usually dependent on their parents and must consequently disclose their parents’ financial information in addition to their own.
The second dissimilarity is that FAFSA Graduate School applicants are not eligible for subsidized loans. A subsidized loan starts accumulating interest only after the beneficiary of such a loan has ceased to be a full-time student, a benefit that FAFSA Undergraduate applicants enjoy.
In addition to these two broader differences, FAFSA Graduate School applicants can take out more loans than Undergrad applicants, but at the cost of usually higher interest rates over what Undergrads have to pay.
It must also be noted that Grants for Graduate School do not include the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity, Grant.
Both Undergraduate Students and Graduate Students have to follow the same process while applying for FAFSA, and the eligibility criteria and other requirements are almost the same.
What is the eligibility to apply for FAFSA for Graduate School?
To qualify for federal student aid that may include grants, work-study, or loans, an applicant must meet some basic eligibility criteria. To fulfill these criteria, the student must:
- be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen;
- have a valid Social Security Number;
- demonstrate financial need;
- be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program;
- be registered with Selective Service, if the applicant is a male (registration should be done between the ages of 18 and 25);
- be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for Direct-Loan Program funds;
- sign all certification statements on the FAFSA form;
- show that the student is qualified to obtain a college or career school education based on certain criteria.
Additional eligibility criteria may apply to non-citizens and students who fall outside of the ‘general’ category.
In addition to U.S. Citizens who are eligible to apply for financial aid, the following types of applicants may also apply but will have to fulfill additional criteria to do so:
- Students with a parent who was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan
- Non-U.S. citizens
- Students with criminal convictions
- Students with intellectual disabilities
- Homeless Students
- Students who are or have been in foster care
For specific or more information, visit the Eligibility Requirements page of studentaid.gov to understand each type of application and associated eligibility criteria.
How much money will I get through FAFSA?
One of the most common queries students have is “how much does FAFSA cover graduate school?”.
Suppose the student applying for FAFSA has first of all met all basic eligibility criteria, in that case, the application is processed by the financial aid office at the applicant’s college or career school. It is this office that will determine how much aid the student is eligible to receive, generally based on:
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
- Year in school.
- Enrollment status (full-time or part-time).
- Cost of Attendance (COA) at the school applied for.
- Any need-based aid.
- Any non-need-based aid.
How to Apply for FAFSA for Graduate School?
Students who wish to apply for financial aid to help pay for college must complete and submit the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This form is available online at studentaid.gov and must be filled up on the same portal. Alternatively, a printed form is also available and can usually be picked up from a FAFSA graduate school’s financial aid office or downloaded from studentaid.gov (for the school year 2021-2022). If one gathers all the required information well before one starts the application process, it will be easier to complete the FAFSA form in no time. To fill it out completely, here are a few things that are needed:
- An FSA ID
- Social Security Number
- Alien Registration Number (for non-U.S. citizens) 3DDriver’s License Number (optional)
- Previous Year’s Tax Records
- Records of Untaxed Income
- Records of Assets (Money)
- List of Schools (Interested in Attending)
- A personal e-mail Address For dependent students:
- Social Security Number of Parents
- Income & Financial Records of Parents
Note: The FAFSA form for 2020-2021 has been available since October 1, 2019. Depending on the state of legal residence, the submission deadline varies, but for students of most states, the submission deadline is June 30, 2023. It is advisable to apply early as many awards are given on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Once the required information is made available and ready, the application in itself is pretty much straightforward, broken down into a few steps/sections:
- Step 1. Student Information: Personal & Education
This section is where the applicant needs to fill in details such as name, date of birth, social security number, e-mail address, etc. Having an FSA ID will prepopulate much of this information, saving time and effort. In addition to this information, some basic education-related information is sought, such as current study, grade level, graduation, etc.
- Step 2. Student Information: Finance & Marital Status
Carrying on with this section could be made easy by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, accessed through the ‘Link to IRS’ button. Doing so can populate much of the information asked for, but for those who may be ineligible to transfer tax information from the IRS, there is always the option of filling up the form manually. This section also deals with the student’s marital status, and one should truthfully choose from never married, separated, divorced, widowed, or not married and provide relevant details as well.
- Step 3. Student Information: Dependency Status
The dependency status seeks to establish whether the applicant is an ‘independent’ student or needs to submit their parents’ tax information. Most of the questions here require a simple “yes” or “no” answer, but one must be careful to read the question properly and answer without a doubt.
- Step 4. Parent Information: Demographics of Parents
Based on the answers provided in Step 3, the student needs to either fill in the information asked for in Step 4 or skip it and move on to Step 5. If the answer to every question in Step 3 is “no”, then Step 4 is required to be filled. On the other hand, if the answer to any question in Step 3 is “yes”, then Step 4 may be skipped entirely. Either way, this section deals with information of the parents, much like how Step 1 deals with that of Students.
- Step 5. Student Information: Dependency Status (Additional)
Students should complete this section only if they answered “yes” to any question in Step 3. There are only a few questions in this section that are in line with those asked in Step 3.
- Step 6. Student Information: Selection of School
Regardless of whether the student has applied to a College or not, they are at liberty to choose up to 10 Colleges at a time (maximum of 4 in case of a paper FAFSA form) without having to worry about applying to them or being accepted by any of them. Data of Colleges that the student will ultimately end up not attending will be securely discarded. Furthermore, no College can see the list of choices, so it wise to select as many as possible at this stage. There is a handy search tool that makes this step easy, provided, of course, the applicant knows at least the state where the college is located and either the city or name of the College.
- Step 7. Student & Parent: Signing & Submitting the FAFSA Form
Independent students can sign and submit the FAFSA form independently, without parents having to do so. However, those who qualify as dependent students need their parents to sign the form as well. If such is the case, both parents (1 and 2) will also have FSA IDs and enter them before submitting the form.
Once the form is submitted, FAFSA will start processing it, and the applicant can monitor its progress by logging into studentaid.gov with their FSA ID. Schools selected by the applicant will automatically receive information from FAFSA, and if selected for admission, will tailor a financial aid package for the applicant.
Important: FAFSA application must be done every year, not only at the time of seeking admission.
Top Tips when applying for FAFSA for Graduate School
While the FAFSA Graduate School form is quite simple, there is always a chance of overlooking important and complicated things in the bargain. There are thousands of FAFSA applications made each year, and it is essential to keep the finger on the ball, focus, and assiduously enter information on the FAFSA form. These few tips should help in staying on top:
- Apply Early
The FAFSA form for the following academic year is usually October 1. Applying early is prudent because many of the awarded grants are done on a first-come, first-serve basis and will, therefore, better the chances of receiving aid.
- Do Not Skip Steps
Try answering all questions asked in the FAFSA form and avoid skipping or missing anything. If there is some question to which you do not have the answer or does not apply to you, enter a “0” or “not applicable”, instead of leaving a blank. Leaving too many blanks will increase the risk of the FAFSA form being rejected altogether!
- Check the Figures
Check and double-check the figures that are keyed in, especially dates and amounts. Avoid decimalization of numbers, preferably rounding them up to the nearest dollar. Skipping commas in numerals will ensure that figures are accurate and not off the mark.
- Do Not Hide Information
Never hide information that is available but is thought best not divulge. Erroneous or false information, or for that matter, non-disclosure, can seriously jeopardize the FAFSA application and chances of receiving any aid at all.
- Provide the Right Marital Information
If the applicant is planning to get married shortly but is single at the time of applying for FAFSA, the marital status is deemed to be ‘Single’ or ‘Never Married’. Details of the stepparent must be included if a custodial parent is remarried, and in cases where parents may be no longer married but living together, information of both parents must be divulged. Providing the right marital information is an important deciding factor for granting aid and should not be taken lightly or ignored.
- Review before Submitting
It is very easy to make silly mistakes that may have far-reaching consequences. Before continuing to the next section or submitting the form, one should always check the information entered and verify its accuracy and authenticity. After all, one incorrect or erroneous entry can diminish or entirely wipe away any chances of receiving financial assistance.
What happens next?
Completing and submitting the FAFSA Graduate School form is only the beginning. There are a few more steps to take before a student receives the aid in their hands.
- Keep a Check
Once the FAFSA form has been submitted, it typically takes 3 to 5 days for the application to be processed. During this time, the student can log in to student.gov with their FSA ID and monitor their application’s progress. When the form is successfully processed, the student will receive a SAR or Student Aid Report, which summarizes the information provided on the FAFSA form. If there are errors on this report, the student should complete or correct the form without delay.
- Peruse & Compare Aid Offers
Students who have applied to several Colleges may receive aid offers (also known as award letters) detailing what financial aid is being offered. In such a situation, one must always compare all aid offers and calculate to see which one is more feasible and/or suitable and make an informed decision, only after exploring all avenues of aid, including Scholarships and Grants, Work-Study, Federal Student Loans, State or College Loans, and Private Loans.
- Reply to Aid Offers
Following the decision on which financial aid to accept, the student must inform the college of such acceptance either digitally (website/e-mail) or via regular mail. The aid letter should contain instructions on how to accept or reject an offer.
- Sign Loan Agreement
Along with the aid acceptance letter or form, or as a separate arrangement, the student will have to sign an agreement in the form of a Master Promissory Note or MPN. Each loan type will require its own MPN. Again, guidelines and instructions should be available in the aid letter the student would have received.
- Complete Entrance Counseling
Completing the Entrance Counseling is mandatory as the record of completion will be sent to the selected college, only after which the student will receive the loan money. The Entrance Counseling addresses frequently asked questions such as ‘what a loan is’, ‘how interest is calculated’, ‘what options are available for repayment’, and ‘how to avoid delinquency and default’. Additionally, this session ensures that the student understands the terms and conditions of the loan, as well as their rights and responsibilities connected with the loan.
FAQs about FAFSA for Graduate School
|Q: Does FAFSA cover graduate school?|
|A: Yes, FAFSA covers graduate schools. The student applying for FAFSA has to enter a list of preferred schools in the FAFSA form, even if they have not yet applied to those schools or have not yet been admitted to those schools.|
|Q: How to complete FAFSA for graduate school?|
|A: A student (and parents of dependent students) has to visit studentaid.gov, create an account (FSA ID) and proceed to fill in the FAFSA form. The process is fairly straightforward, but more information and help can be sought from this page (in the sections above).|
|Q: How much does FAFSA cover graduate school?|
|A: The quantum of financial aid largely depends on several formulae and is decided by the college’s financial aid office.|
|Q: What is an FSA ID?|
|A: An FSA ID is the username that has been used to create an account on the studentaid.gov website. This is the ID that is required to log into, fill and sign the FAFSA form. Dependent students must have their parents sign up and create their own FSA IDs.|
|Q: Where can I get a FAFSA form?|
|A: The FAFSA form is available at studentaid.gov, and this is the only official site on which it is available. The form must be filled and submitted online by creating an FSA ID. Avoid any third-party or unofficial sites that claim to offer the FAFSA form.|
|Q: Is the FAFSA form free? Is there a fee for applying to FAFSA?|
|A: The FAFSA form on the official FAFSA site administered by the U.S. Department of Education is free. There is no application fee or other fees for filling out the form or applying for FAFSA.|
|Q: What types of aid are available through FAFSA?|
|A: Through the FAFSA process, a student may be eligible to receive a variety of aid types, such as (a) Federal Grants, (b) Scholarships, (c) Work-Study Programs, or (d) Federal Student Loans.|
|Q: How long does it take for a FAFSA form to be processed?|
|A: According to studentaid.gov, digital applications typically take between 3 and 5 days to process, whereas paper applications may require 7 to 10 days.|
|Q: How long does it take to receive money through FAFSA?|
|A: The standard practice with most Colleges is to send financial aid award letters, along with admission acceptance letters, or shortly after. Upon receipt of the aid award letter, the student must accept or deny the offer before the financial aid deadline. It is only after this entire process that the student will receive the aid money.|
|Q: Can I lose my eligibility for FAFSA aid?|
|A: Yes, it is possible in some instances to lose financial aid awarded through FAFSA. This could happen if the student’s:|
A student could also lose financial aid if he or she:
Additional Resources about FAFSA for Graduate School
Seeking financial aid can be a tricky business. There are more than a few options to explore and hundreds of sites that claim to offer scholarships and awards, most of which eventually turn out to be fake. Here are some genuinely good resources for students to use and find information on a FAFSA Graduate School, as well as other funding options for graduate studies:
One of the obvious and natural choices to obtain exact and up-to-date information on FAFSA is the official FAFSA website itself. The portal covers all topics relevant to financial aid and assistance and is where the FAFSA form must be filled, completed, and submitted.
Perhaps the most in-depth resource for students applying for financial aid via FAFSA is ‘PHeaa’. The site has detailed information on almost everything related to FAFSA and also offers an excellent toolkit that could be of immense help to students.
There are a few other resources to consider if one must look beyond FAFSA. After all, there are other ways and means of securing scholarships, grants, and loans, and some of the sites listed below will enable you to explore multiple options of funding:
- OMC – Online Masters Colleges
Our site – Online Masters Colleges – is a wealth of information for Scholarships and, in fact, offers our very own OMC Scholarships. Women seeking financial aid should read about Scholarships for Women, and there is in-depth information and analysis on African American Scholarships and Scholarships for Disabled Students.
Students applying for any form of financial aid should also be aware of Scholarship Scams that have cast wide nets and cheated hundreds of students while robbing them of their dreams.
- Financial Aid Appeal Guide
Students can also find information about what can be done if their FAFSA is denied or receive less or other correction.
Unigo has an extensive list of scholarships listed on their site, complete with details, grant amounts, timelines, and application requirements.
Fastweb helps students with not only scholarships but also internships, loans, part-time jobs, and more. There are also interesting articles on a variety of topics that one could read.
- Sallie Mae
Sallie Mae largely deals with money matters for students. It lists out information from private student loans to credit cards and savings while also highlighting scholarships and loan repayment options.
Scholarships.com is, to put it short and sweet, a scholarship directory that any student seeking financial assistance should go through. Students can search and explore scholarships available across the United States and even apply for some of them directly on the portal.