09/17/2020

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FAFSA Guide

Welcome to SoFi’s FAFSA® Guide

This information is subject to change and does not constitute legal or financial advice; it’s educational in nature and may not cover all situations. We recommend you contact the financial aid office of the school(s) you are interested in attending or visit FAFSA.ed.gov for more information. SoFi Lending Corp. does not offer federal student loans and this resource is not affiliated with the Department of Education. FAFSA is a registered service mark of the US Department of Education. CSS Profile is a trademark registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with and does not endorse SoFi.

When it comes to college, filling out your FAFSA® doesn’t have to be so complicated. We’re here to help make the financial aid process easier with FAQs, resources, educational materials, and more.

What is the FAFSA?

Let’s start with the basics: FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and must be filled out every year a student hopes to receive federal financial aid—which can include loans, grants, and work-study. If you’d like a step-by-step overview, check out our convenient FAFSA cheat sheet.

Ready to learn more?

Here are some articles covering FAFSA basics:

Choosing Your Student Loan

Need help determining which loan works best for you? Here’s a guide to the different types of student loans available.

Federal Student Loans

Types of Federal Student Loans

Direct Subsidized Loans

Direct Subsidized Loans are for undergraduate students who have financial need.

Learn More

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Direct Unsubsidized Loans are offered to undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree students, and financial need is not required. These are the most common type of federal student loan.

Learn More

Direct PLUS Loans

Direct PLUS Loans are offered to parents paying for their dependent child’s undergraduate education and to graduate or professional degree-seeking students.

Learn More

Private Student Loans

In addition to federal loans, private student loans are another way to pay for your education. Private student loans do not require a FAFSA application, and are often used as a supplement to federal aid.

Private Student Loans 101

It can sometimes be difficult to determine which loan option will work best for you. These comparison articles might help you choose from federal, private, or both.

Eligibility Criteria

There are some basic eligibility requirements to receive federal student aid—including federal student loans. Check out the specific criteria outlined below. Or, for a deeper dive, you can refer to our student loan requirements article.

Financial Need

To qualify for many federal student aid programs, you must demonstrate that you have a financial need. Your financial need is determined by calculating the difference between the cost of attending a school (COA) and your expected family contribution (EFC). Your COA will of course vary depending on the school, but your EFC will remain the same. A completed FAFSA is required to determine a student’s EFC.

Citizenship

You must be either a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen to apply for federal aid. Eligible non-citizens include U.S. nationals, U.S. permanent residents, or specific individuals with certain designations from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services. For more details, check out studentaid.gov’s definition of eligible non-citizen in their glossary.

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Social Security Number

It is required that applications possess a valid Social Security number. There are only exceptions for students from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau.

Selective Service

Most male students wishing to apply for federal student aid must be registered with Selective Service. You can call Selective Service toll-free at 1-888-655-1825 for general registration info, or register online at www.sss.gov. You can also register directly via the FAFSA.

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Enrollment Specifications

To receive federal aid, students must either be enrolled, or accepted for enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program. You must be enrolled as a “regular student,” meaning you have been accepted at the institution in order to obtain a degree, certificate, or other recognized education credential offered. Students must also be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for Direct Loan Program funds.

Certification Statement

Part of the FAFSA includes signing a certification statement. This states that you do not have any federal student loans in default and you do not owe money on a federal grant. Signing this statement certifies that you will use any federal student aid you receive for educational purposes only.

Learn More

Proof of Education

Students must prove that they are qualified to obtain a college education by showing they have a high school diploma, General Education Development (GED) certificate, completed high school education by a homeschool approved under state law, or are enrolled in an eligible career pathway program. Career pathway programs require that you also meet an “ability-to-benefit” alternative that you can learn more about here.

Learn More

Other Types of Student Aid

In addition to loans, student aid can also come in the form of grants, scholarships, and work-study jobs.

Learn More

Important Dates to Know

Now that you know the basics, let’s go through some important dates within the student loan process.

Important FAFSA Deadlines to Know

October 1

This is the date the FAFSA becomes available for the following school year. It is recommended that you fill out your FAFSA as close to October 1 as possible to give you a good chance to get access to available funds. Need-based aid is awarded on a first come, first served basis, so it is in your best interest to apply as soon as possible.

June 30

This is the deadline to submit the FAFSA for the school year to begin that fall.

Deadlines by State

Each state has its own deadline for submitting the FAFSA form, and some states award state-specific grants that will have their own deadlines for submission as well. To find the deadline for your state, check the official FAFSA website.

Learn More

Deadlines by College

In addition to state deadlines, colleges may also have specific deadlines that vary by school. Check with the schools that you are interested in attending to ensure you submit your FAFSA on time.

Paying Back Student Loans

Once you have a student loan, how do you go about paying it back?

More Info on Financial Aid

When it comes to financial aid, we know there are a lot of topics to cover. Here are some additional resources that may make the process easier.

SoFi Private Student Loans

Sometimes the costs of college can exceed the amount of federal student aid you receive. That’s when you might consider a private student loan with SoFi. SoFi offers no-fee student loans with an easy application that can be done entirely online.


Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF DECEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION. Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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