FAFSA for Graduate Programs – The complete Guide

The U.S. Department of Education uses the FAFSA application to assess the eligibility of a student based on their financial condition for need-based federal financial assistance for college. There are many sources through which students can fulfill their financial needs, in which FAFSA is one among them. Note that the colleges/universities also provide exclusive financial support for the students which is commonly known as institutional aid. Federal grants, federal loans, scholarships, work-study, and/or loans can provide federal financial assistance for students. When it comes to Graduate programs which includes PHD, Masters and Online Master’s, the rules and application process for FAFSA are different than when you had applied for FAFSA as an undergraduate student.

What is FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form to assess the eligibility for student financial assistance performed by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States, helping the students to fulfill their dreams of doing higher education with the amount of money offered by FAFSA. Students who are receiving financial assistance must complete the FAFSA every year. Grants, scholarships, work-study plans, and student loans are among the many types of financial assistance available. It costs nothing to fill out the application. Allowing others to complete it for a fee is a fraud.

The bulk of financial assistance is awarded depending on financial need. The difference between the college’s cost of attendance and your Expected Family Contribution is your financial need (EFC). Tuition and fees, books, materials, room and board, personal costs, and transportation are all included in the cost of attendance, which is decided by the school.

The EFC is measured using the data you have on the FAFSA. Dependency status, family size, wages, savings, and the number of household members enrolled in college or trade schools all have an effect.

How Does FAFSA Work?

The FAFSA is the official form used for families to apply for the federal government’s financial assistance for master’s education(online master’s degree or on-campus master’s degree). The details contained in the application is often used by States, independent colleges and universities as well as private scholarship services. 

FAFSA’s key aim is to identify the amount of financial assistance for which you apply, providing aid-dependent both on needs and non-needs. FAFSA sets the eligibility for a federal necessity-related program, like a Pell Grant, Federal Supplementary Opportune Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Federally subsidized loans based on needs. Unsubsidized federal student loans, which most borrowers apply for irrespective of need. 

The FAFSA asks a series of questions about the income and properties of parents and pupils, as well as other variables, such as how many children there are in the household, to assess the financial need of a family. An Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) then comes up, which, according to the rationale of the federal government, reflects how much of the education expenses the family will be able to cover from its own money.

The other factors that affect FAFSA are like your marital status, dependent or an independent student, family income, credit hours, working adult, part-time graduate student, and many more

In terms of savings, the FAFSA assumes that in every one college year, 20% of the assets of a student and 5.64% of the assets of parents should be eligible for spending. Such assets include savings deposits and pensions, but the value of pension accounts, life insurance benefits, and annuities are exempt. Any equity in the family home is exempt as well. 

The details you give to the FAFSA decides whether you are eligible for need-based assistance, non-need-based aid, or a combination of the two.

FAFSA is even for some international students with a set of different rules and conditions. There are several international organizations that can support students with this.

If you are not qualified to fill out the FAFSA itself, you will use the Federal Student Aid‘s FAFSA4caster web office to receive an estimation of the EFC and the chances of obtaining financial aid.

What are the Eligible Criteria Required to Apply for the FAFSA for the Master’s Program?

Before applying for FAFSA it is better to know whether you are an eligible graduate student to apply for FAFSA.

What are the Documents required for the FAFSA Application for the Master’s Program?

The FAFSA questions ask for information about you (your name, date of birth, address, etc.) and your financial condition. Depending on the situation (for example, if you are a U.S. resident or what tax form you used), you will need the following facts or documentation to complete your application:

  • Your Social Security number (it’s important that you enter it correctly on the FAFSA form!)
  • Your parents’ Social Security numbers if you are a dependent student
  • Your driver’s license number if you have one
  • Your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen
  • Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information, for you (and your spouse, if you are married), and for your parents, if you are a dependent student:

Foreign tax return, IRS 1040NR, or IRS 1040NR-EZ

Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau

  • Your untaxed financial history, such as child welfare earned, interest income, and non-education compensation for veterans, for you, and for your parents, if you are a dependent student,
  • Cash information; savings and account balances; investments, including stocks and shares and real estate (but not including the house you live in); and company and farm properties for you and your parents if you are a dependent student.

How to Apply for FAFSA for Graduate Programs?

Before applying for FAFSA, you need to first know when to apply. If you miss the timeline to apply for FAFSA then all the invested energy is of no use. Below is the table describing the timeline to apply for FAFSA.

Now you have got to know when to apply for FAFSA, now the question rises as ‘How to apply for FAFSA?’. Below are the steps that clearly guide you in filling up the FAFSA form.

Gather Your Information

You’ll be asked to include some details as you fill out the FAFSA. By getting all the relevant paperwork and documentation on hand, you can speed up the process. You should have:

  1. Your Social Security number
  2. Your family size and income
  3. Your personal income (if any)
  4. The list of colleges you’re applying to

Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID

Your next move is to generate an FSA ID by registering for the FAFSA online or with a smartphone app. This is a unique identifier used each year you are in college to complete the FAFSA. Creation takes about 10 minutes, and it can be completed fully online. Students have their own special FSA ID. Your FSA ID would be different from that of your child if you’re a parent.

Fill in Student Information

You can start the FAFSA online or via the app once you have got your FSA ID. Choose the form that you most likely wish to complete in the next school year, and begin to fill out the demographic portion of the student. Your information, such as your name, age, and date of birth, is asked for in this segment.

You’ll also be asked to join the schools that you choose to attend. Be sure that you enter all schools that you consider so that you receive the full assistance that you are eligible to receive from each one.

For the dependence portion, for financial assistance purposes, you will be asked questions deciding whether or not you are dependent on your parents.

Enter Parent Information

You need to insert details about your parents after you’ve finished the student section. And if you are not actually staying with your parents, this portion also has to be finished. You will be asked by the form to enter their names, mailing addresses, and other records.

Provide Your Financial Information

First, you need to include financial information for your family, including your salary and that of your parents. You should use the IRS Data Extraction Service when filing for FAFSA online, which automatically collects the appropriate data from your tax return.

Review Your FAFSA

Make sure that you check the FAFSA for any mistakes or errors before sending it. Double-check the number of schools you have joined, as well as the financial records.

Sign and Submit Your FAFSA form

When you’re confident all of the details are right, you can sign and send the form online.

10 Quick facts about FAFSA for Graduate Programs

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About David

After completing his undergraduate, David wanted to get a Master's degree. Looking at cost of getting a 2 year degree, David decided there should be some financial aid and scholarship available to help out students like him. He has since then been researching on Graduate program scholarships and how to help future students like him secure a financial aid and make the education affordable.

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