Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first and most important step in finding money for college. All federal loans, work-study, and grants are determined by the FAFSA, and most colleges use the FAFSA as a basis for awarding their own institutional aid. Complete the FAFSA every year you plan to attend college.

Local FAFSA Completion Assistance

The Campaign for Working Families assists low-income families in Philadelphia with free tax preparation.

The School District of Philadelphia hosts FAFSA completion events throughout the school year. You can find information about those events here.

You can find both in-person and virtual FAFSA completion events and workshops posted to the PhillyGoes2College calendar.

See 👏 your 👏 counselor! Trust us. There is nothing more your high school counselor would love to do than help pave your way to an affordable college education.

When to Complete the FAFSA

You can complete FAFSA applications beginning October 1st of every year. You should apply as early as possible. For instance, if you plan to attend college in the Fall 2023, you should submit your FAFSA as close as possible to October 2022. Financial aid at many colleges is first-come first-served, meaning students who submit their FAFSA early have a better chance of receiving need-based scholarships from colleges. You will want to know three FAFSA deadlines: the national deadline, the state deadline, and the deadlines for the colleges you’re applying to. 

What You Need Before Filling Out the FAFSA

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is an index number used to determine your eligibility for federal student financial aid. This number results from the information you provide in your FAFSA. Your EFC is reported to you on your Student Aid Report (SAR).

Your EFC is calculated according to a formula established by law and considers your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (such as, unemployment or Social Security). Schools use the EFC to determine your federal aid eligibility and financial aid award. You can find more information on EFC here.

What Happens After You Complete the FASA

After submission, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report. Review your SAR carefully, and make any necessary corrections or updates immediately.

Your SAR will be sent to the colleges you have applied to. Check the websites of each college to see if there is supplementary material you must submit, a process called FAFSA Verification. Work with your high school counselor or college financial aid office to work through the verification process.

Being selected for FAFSA Verification does not mean you did anything wrong. It just means you may need to supply additional materials to confirm the information you included on the FAFSA.

Upon review of your SAR, each college will send you a financial aid award letter. You can compare all the aid packages you are offered, and use this as a basis for making your final choice.

Breaking It Down

Here are some of our favorite resources for taking the FAFSA one step at a time. 

8 Steps to Completing the FAFSA Form

How to Respond to Each Question on the FAFSA

Filling Out the FAFSA Form

State Grants

To find out if you qualify for a PHEAA State Grant, you will first need to complete the FAFSA.

If you are eligible, a link to the PHEAA form will appear at the top of the confirmation page of the FAFSA. Be careful, the link is small and easy to miss. When you click on this link you will be asked to complete additional information. Visit the Funding Opportunities tab on the PHEAA website to learn more about how state aid can help you.

In order to qualify for the PHEAA you must complete your FAFSA by May 1st for four-year colleges and August 1st for two-year and technical colleges.

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