What Is FAFSA?

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Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Lori Pace

Even the average college student dreads going to college. Their first thought is always about the cost of just going to classes. For single moms, the thought of paying for college can be even more daunting. As a single mom, you have to juggle extra expenses that most college students normally have to think about, such as your children’s school fees and any medical expenses that they will need. Because of this, many single mothers need financial aid to help them go to college. This is why many single mothers, just like you, apply for Federal Student Aid. The Federal Student Aid has helped plenty of single mothers pay for their college tuition. But, what is FAFSA?

But now you might be wondering how do you go about applying for financial aid from the Federal Student Aid. The first thing that you would need to do, is fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (also called FAFSA). Luckily, we have found all the information that you need to apply for financial aid. 

What Exactly Is FAFSA And The Federal Student Aid?

The US Department of Education helps college and university students pay for their education. The department can provide over $240 billion in student loans, federal grants, and work-study funds to more than 13 million students. This would include many single mothers who need help paying for their education. 

Any single mom, who is looking for help paying for their college tuition, needs to fill in an application form. This application is called the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Simply explained, the FAFSA is an application form for ANY graduate or undergraduate to help them figure out if they are eligible for student financial aid. The application is completely free.

What Exactly Is Fafsa And The Federal Student Aid

How Does FAFSA Work?

You can fill in the FAFSA online. First, you need to create an FSA ID. You will need this electronically sign your FAFSA. This ID will also come in handy because it will also give you access to different websites that will have helpful information on student aid. 

You won’t have to spend a lot of time filling in your FAFSA because it normally takes 30 minutes. There are 108 questions that you need to answer. These questions will focus on your income, who’s dependent on you and your assets. The answers to these questions will help determine how much you can afford to contribute to your tuition from your pocket. This is called your “Expected Family Contribution” or EFC.  

After that, the university will minus your EFC from the total cost of your tuition. The answer will give be what is called your, “financial need.” So, this means that the smaller your EFC, the larger your financial aid will be. A good example to remember would be this. After you’ve answered the FAFSA questions and find that your EFC is $8000. But your tuition for college A costs $15000. This means that you could be qualified for $7000 of aid. However, if college B’s tuition only costs $6000 you might be able to get financial aid. This is because FAFSA would show that you pay for this on your own. 

Also, remember that you need to submit a new FAFSA for every new academic year. This is because your financial situation could change. This would change for FAFSA result for that year. 

Financial Aid Offered By FAFSA

Through FAFSA, you can get access to different types of financial aid. These types of financial can include federal grants, scholarships, federal work-study programs and federal student loans. 

Federal grants 

The US Department of Education can offer students several grants. The best thing about these grants, that don’t need to be paid back. It’s FREE money. Keep in mind that getting one of these grants will depend on your FAFSA results.


Many colleges offer scholarships that you won’t need to pay back. You can get one of these scholarships by having some achievement or having excellent grades. Often with these scholarships, you will be expected to keep up your grades to keep this scholarship.

Work-Study Programs

Your FAFSA can also provide you with a work-study option to pay for college. With this option, you can have a part-time campus job to pay back the money. You will be able to work in a job that your school reserved for you. 

Federal Student Loans

These student loans are offered to students through the federal government. If you get a student loan, you will need to pay it back with interest. There are different ways that you can apply. 

You should accept your student loan in the order they are given. For example grants or scholarships, earned money and finally, borrowed money. Just remember that your financial aid will be given through the school you applied to. 

What To Do Before You Apply For FAFSA?

Now before you go to your computer to fill in your FAFSA, there are some things that you need to finish. As we mentioned before, you need to create an FSA ID with a unique username and password. This will make it quicker and easier to sign and electronically submit your FAFSA. 

Filing your income tax information before you fill in FAFSA isn’t necessary. However, it’s also highly recommended that you complete your income tax return before you complete the FAFSA. This will make it easier to transfer your tax information from the IRS into your FAFSA application.  

What To Fill In FAFSA

Before you get started, remember that with any official form, there are things that you need to help fill them in. The FAFSA is no different. Here are the different things you need for FAFSA. 

Personal forms

You need the following information: 

  • Social security number
  • An Alien Registration Number (ANR) if you’re not a US citizen.
  • Your driver’s license number and the state it was issued. 

Financial records

It’s a good idea to get all your financial records together because you fill out FAFSA. This is is because FAFSA is used to work out how much financial aid you need for college. Here are the financial records you need for FAFSA:

  • Latest bank statement
  • Any mortgage information, if it applies to your situation. 
  • Records about your taxable income from W-2 forms or any similar records
  • Federal Income Tax Return such as IRS 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ
  • Records about any untaxed income such as workers’ compensation, housing and food allowance, and child support. 

How Can You Submit?

There are four easy ways to complete your FAFSA. One of these methods includes a newly created mobile app. This means that you find the option that best suit you. 

Use an app for FAFSA

It’s only recently that students can use an app on their phone to process their FAFSA. You can download the myStudentAid app from Google Play or the Apple App Store (iOS). If you don’t fancy using the app on your phone, you can even use the app on your PC or laptop. 

FAFSA Online

There is an option if you don’t feel like downloading an app just to fill in your app. You can always complete your FAFSA online through their website. The website has even been recently updated with a new to work on your phone. 

The website is particularly helpful because there are step-by-step instructions. These instructions will make it easier for you to your FAFSA. 

Paper or PDF FAFSA 

There are two extra options for single moms who don’t have a stable internet connection. You can either download a PDF version to fill in offline. You can even print out the FAFSA, so you can manually fill it in. 

What can you do when your PC is broken and your internet is down? There is even a way to complete your FAFSA in a worst-case situation. You can simply request the paper FAFSA from the Federal Student Aid Information Center by calling 1-800-433-3243. 

Just remember, when manually filling your FAFSA, you need to date and sign it. You also need to mail it to the address that was provided. This will make sure that your FAFSA is processed correctly. 

Deadline For FAFSA

There are different deadlines set for different states. So be sure to check online for your state’s deadline. It’s also recommended that you complete your FAFSA as soon as possible. As the old saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. 

Normally, the earliest you can submit your FAFSA is 1st October. The official final deadline is usually the 30th of June. Just keep in mind, that this can change depending on the state you live in. 

It’s also highly recommended that you submit your FAFSA before the 1st of April. This will help you meet the “priority” deadline. This is great because some financial aid is handed out on a first-come, first-served basis. 

What Happens After You Submit?

So, you’ve filled out and submitted your FAFSA. Now what happens afterward? How long do you wait? If everything went smoothly, then normally you don’t have to wait too long. 

You will get your Student Aid Report (SAR) after 3 to 5 days. It will also give you a reference to your EFC. All this information will also be sent to the school or schools you mentioned in your FAFSA. 

If there aren’t any complications and everything is correct, you can expect to get your financial aid award letter from the schools you applied to. The letter will give the details of your financial aid. It should also normally arrive in late March or even early April.

Final Word On FAFSA

In conclusion, there are plenty of financial aid options for single moms who want to go to college. This is a free and easy way for you to figure what financial aid is right for you. There are different ways to complete and submit. 

So if you are considering going to college or have already started going to college, you SHOULD fill in and submit your FAFSA. This will be a BIG help in paying for your college tuition. This means that you will be able to save some extra money for you and your children. 

Lori Pace
Lori Pace

Lori Pace is a single mother of three daughters ages 7 and under. As a working mom from home, she balances kids, work and two crazy dogs with humor and love. Follow Lori as she honestly gives tips and advice based on her own experiences as a single mom!