MONEYSCHOOL'S Simplified Guide
to FAFSA and Federal Student Aid

Section 1: Introduction

If you are planning to apply for grants and loans to help pay for college or a career school, you will soon become all too familiar with the U. S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and its acronym, FAFSA

Think your federal tax return is confusing?  There’s a good chance you’ll encounter a whole new level of frustration in applying for federal student aid.  After all, you’re dealing with the government.  The good news is that the FAFSA allows you to apply for all federal student aid programs with a single application.

This Guide isn’t intended to tell you everything you need to know about FAFSA and federal student aid.  What it does do is give you a simplified, big-picture orientation to financial aid programs and the application process, including some information you won’t find in the official guides.  Also, it pulls together a lot of critical information that can be hard to track down on the Federal Student Aid web site.

Federal financial aid programs are extremely complex and confusing.  Understanding how the system works will help you make sense out of the application process, and it will also help you make smart choices about how to pay for college or career education. 

There’s one other really important thing MONEYSCHOOL wants you to get out of this guide.  Although student loans are an essential form of financial aid for many students, most students and their parents don’t realize that student loan debt is actually more dangerous than most other types of debt—even worse than credit cards in some ways.  We’ll explain why later, in the section titled “What to Watch Out For!” at the end of this guide.

The material contained in this Guide is based on the best available information at the time of publication. However, a number of changes to federal student aid programs were under consideration when this Guide was prepared.  More recent information may be available at the U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid web site.

Important tip:  MONEYSCHOOL will be issuing free email updates on changes to federal student aid programs and the application process.  If you haven’t already provided us with your email address, you can sign up here to receive those updates.