Is the FAFSA for Grad School?

Using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid

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Getting into graduate school is tough enough, but paying for it is another story. How will you pay for those two to six years of education? Can you use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) like you did as an undergrad? After all, a graduate degree can easily cost $60,000 and often over $100,000. Most students require funding for tuition, but also for living expenses. Being a graduate student is pretty much a full-time job, so you will need money to support you during your studies, even if you can work a little. 

Luckily, you can apply for financial aid using the FAFSA form -- the same one that you may have used as an undergraduate. This can help you secure the funding you need to make your graduate school education possible.

FAFSA and Graduate School

Your first step in funding graduate school is to complete the FAFSA form. You cannot apply for or receive any financial aid from any institution of higher education without completing this form. It's the gateway to securing all forms of financial aid.

The key to getting that funding is to make sure that you follow all the rules so you have the best chance of getting the funding you need. Don't wait to be accepted to a graduate program to complete the FAFSA, either. Make sure to apply early while you are submitting your applications. Financial aid packages are awarded at the same time as acceptance letters. If you wait to apply you'll lose your opportunity for aid. In other words, don't delay.

Also, fill out the form completely as to prevent errors that could cost you everything. You will probably need information from your driver's license, social security card, federal tax return, any W-2 forms, your parents' tax forms, bank statements, details of a mortgage if you have one, and investment records. 

Financial Aid for Graduate Students

The U.S. Department of Education runs a variety of student financial assistance programs including grants, and loans. Your eligibility for aid is determined by the information that you provide on the FAFSA. The graduate program and university will also use your FAFSA to determine your eligibility for scholarships, grants, and institutional aid. This includes funds from the state and institution itself -- again, it all goes through the FAFSA.

The FAFSA can help you secure different types of aid from the following programs:

  • The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program
  • Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant
  • Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program
  • Federal Pell Grant

Learn more about the FAFSA and apply:

  • Driver's license
  • Social Security number
  • Federal income tax return
  • Your parents' federal income tax return (if you're a dependent)
  • Your W-2 forms
  • Records of your untaxed income from the previous year
  • Bank statements
  • Business and mortgage information
  • Investment records
  • Alien registration card (if you're not a U.S. citizen)