Derick de Souza
Written By - Derick de Souza

Check MarkEdited By Gabriel D.

Check MarkReview & Contribution By Jake Wilson

FAFSA is short for Free Application for Student Aid and is a form that students must fill out to receive 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 $ 120 billion 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 must be submitted before the stipulated deadline, which is determined based on the state where the applicant resides.

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.

FAFSA Graduate School

Table Of Contents

Featured Online Programs

Southern New Hampshire University

PROGRAM: Online Masters Degrees

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

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What are Grants for Graduate School?

Grants are akin to scholarships but have a few distinct variations. While scholarships are primarily awarded on merit by rewarding exemplary academic achievements or other aspects of a student’s life (such as sports or community service), grants are generally need-based and seldom have anything to do with academic or extracurricular performance.

Most grants tend to factor in ethnicity, community, socio-economic status, gender, and student background. For example, grants could be awarded to only African American students, Female students, students from military families, or those from a particular community. Some grants are even specific to a college or university.

Grants are considered “free money” since they do not have to be paid back and can be used for any educational expense a student has to bear.

A plethora of grants are available from various sources. Therefore, it is always advisable to first check with the university one is applying to and understand what grants, scholarships, loans, or other forms of aid may be offered. A FAFSA graduate school application presents an excellent way to determine what aid a student qualifies for.

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 must apply for FAFSA to qualify for federal student loans, grants, or scholarships. In most cases, a student applying for FAFSA for graduate school will be applying as an individual 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 Direct Unsubsidized Loans) are available at a fixed interest rate of 7.05% (2023-24 school year)to students without the requirement to show financial need[1].

With Direct PLUS Loans, a student can borrow an amount equal to the school’s Cost Of Attendance (COA), which includes tuition and fees, boarding, books, stationery, transportation, etc., less any other financial aid received. Grad PLUS Loans attract a fixed interest rate of 8.05% (2023-24 school year)[1].

One must note that the FAFSA 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 prominent 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 their financial information when applying. 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 usually at higher interest rates than 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.

Undergraduate and Graduate Students must follow the same process while applying for FAFSA; the eligibility criteria and other requirements are almost identical.

What is the eligibility to apply for FAFSA for Graduate School?

 To qualify for federal student aid, including 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 specific criteria.

Additional eligibility criteria may apply to non-citizen students and students who fall outside the ‘general’ category of applicants.

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[2] of to understand each type of application and associated eligibility criteria.

How much money will I get through FAFSA?

A common question students have is, “How much does FAFSA cover graduate school?”.

If the student applying for FAFSA has met all basic eligibility criteria, 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:

  1.  Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
  2. Year in school.
  3. Enrollment status (full-time or part-time).
  4. Cost Of Attendance (COA) at the school applied for.
  5. Any need-based aid.
  6. 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 a Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This form is available online at[3] and must be filled up on the same portal. Alternatively, a printed form is also available and can usually be picked up from the financial aid office of a FAFSA graduate school or downloaded from (for the school year 2023-2024)[4]. If one gathers all the required information well before starting the application process, completing the FAFSA form in no time will be easier. To fill it out completely, here are a few things that are needed:

  1. An FSA ID
  2. Social Security Number
  3. Alien Registration Number (for non-U.S. citizens) 3DDriver’s License Number (optional)
  4. Previous Year’s Tax Records
  5. Records of Untaxed Income
  6. Records of Assets (Money)
  7. List of Schools (Interested in Attending)
  8. A personal e-mail Address For dependent students:
  9. Social Security Number of Parents
  10. Income & Financial Records of Parents

Note: The FAFSA form for 2023-2024 has been available since October 1, 2022. Depending on the state of legal residence, the submission deadline varies, but for students of most states, the submission deadline is June 30, 2024. It is advisable to apply early as many awards are given on a first-come, first-serve basis.

How to Complete FAFSA Graduate School

Once the required information is made available and ready, the application in itself is pretty much straightforward, broken down into a few steps/sections:

  1. 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. An FSA ID will prepopulate much of this information, saving time and effort. In addition, some basic education-related information is sought, such as current study, grade level, graduation, etc.
  2. Step 2. Student Information: Finance & Marital Status
    This section could be carried on easily 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.
  3. 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 correctly and answer without a doubt.
  4. 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 must 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 about the parents much as Step 1 deals with that of Students.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 ten 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 is 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.
  7. Step 7. Student & Parent: Signing & Submitting the FAFSA Form
    Independent students can sign and submit the FAFSA form on their own, without the need of parents having to do so, too. However, those who qualify as dependent students also need their parents to sign the form. If such is the case, both parents (1 and 2) must 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[5] 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 something important and complicating things in the bargain. Thousands of FAFSA applications are 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 one stay on top:

  1. Apply Early
    The FAFSA form for the following academic year is usually available on the 1st of October. Applying early is prudent because many of the grants awarded are on a first-come, first-served basis, improving the chances of receiving aid.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Provide the Right Marital Information
    If the applicant plans to marry shortly but is single when applying for FAFSA, the marital status is deemed “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 about both parents must be divulged. Providing the correct marital information is an important deciding factor for granting aid and should not be taken lightly or ignored.
  6. 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.

  1. Keep a Check
    Once the FAFSA form has been submitted, the application typically takes three to five days to be processed. During this time, the student can log in to[5] with their FSA ID and monitor the progress of their application. When the form is successfully processed, the student will receive a SAR or Student Aid Report, a summary of the information provided on the FAFSA form. If there are errors in this report, the student should complete or correct the form without delay.
  2. 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 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.
  3. Reply to Aid Offers
    Following the decision on which financial aid to accept, the student must inform the college of such acceptance digitally (website/e-mail) or via regular mail. The aid letter should contain instructions on accepting or rejecting an offer.
  4. 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.
  5. Complete Entrance Counseling
    Completing the Entrance Counseling is mandatory as the completion record 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 is a loan,” “How is interest calculated,” “What are the options 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 and their rights and responsibilities connected with the loan.

Note: The U.S. Department of Education does not distribute financial aid directly to the student. It is the student’s college that passes it on.

FAQs about FAFSA for Graduate School

Does FAFSA cover graduate school?

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 or been admitted to those schools.

How to complete FAFSA for graduate school?

How much does FAFSA cover graduate school?

What is an FSA ID?

Where can I get a FAFSA form?

Is the FAFSA form free? Is there a fee for applying to FAFSA?

What types of aid are available through FAFSA?

How long does it take for a FAFSA form to be processed?

How long does it take to receive money through FAFSA?

Can I lose my eligibility for FAFSA aid?

Additional Resources about FAFSA for Graduate School

Seeking financial aid can be 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 for graduate school, as well as other funding options for graduate studies:

  1. FAFSA
    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.
  2. PHeaa
    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 offers an excellent toolkit that could immensely help students.

There are a few other resources to consider if one must look beyond FAFSA. After all, there are various ways and means of securing scholarships, grants, and loans, and some of the sites listed below will enable you to explore multiple options for funding:

  1. 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 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.
  2. Unigo
    Unigo has an extensive list of scholarships on its site, complete with details, grant amounts, timelines, and application requirements.
  3. Fastweb
    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.
  4. Sallie Mae
    Sallie Mae primarily deals with money matters for students. It lists information from private student loans to credit cards and savings, highlighting scholarships and loan repayment options.
  5. is a scholarship directory that any student seeking financial assistance should go through. Students can search and explore scholarships available across the United States and apply for some directly on the portal.