NCSA

What is FAFSA and when do I apply?

By

on

FAFSA is an acronym for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application is an online form filled out by prospective students who wish to apply for financial aid to help cover the cost of college or graduate schools. Completed forms are submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, which uses the information on your application to determine eligibility for federal aid opportunities, such as direct subsidized and unsubsidized student loans, grants and work-study programs, as well as aid on the state and college levels.


While every student planning to attend college is encouraged to complete a FAFSA application, to be eligible for federal aid, a student must meet the following requirements:

  • Have a high school education (current high school seniors can complete their FAFSA before graduation)
  • Be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or an eligible non-citizen (a student’s parents’ citizenship or immigration status does not impact their eligibility)

When do students fill out the FAFSA?

Applications can be submitted starting October 1 for the following school year and can be completed at any time before the deadline, which vary by federal, college and state.


Federal Deadlines

  • 2020–21 Academic Year Deadline: FAFSA forms should be submitted by 11:59 pm CST on June 30, 2021. Corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 pm CST on September 11, 2021.
  • 2021–22 Academic Year Deadline: FAFSA forms should be submitted by 11:59 pm CST on June 30, 2022. Corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 pm CST on September 10, 2022.

College Deadlines

Each college may have its own deadline that occurs before the federal deadline. Check with the colleges you’re interested in to make sure you have the correct date.

State Deadlines
Find your state’s FAFSA filing deadline here.

For more information on FAFSA, financial aid and college scholarships, visit NCSA’s guide to paying for college.