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How to Complete the FAFSA for Grad School

Kendra Burgess
How to Complete the FAFSA for Grad School
How to Complete the FAFSA for Grad School

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Are you feeling lost and uncertain about how to file FAFSA for grad school? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Applying for financial aid can seem daunting, but it’s not too difficult to complete.

We’ll walk you through the steps of completing the FAFSA for grad school, so read on to learn everything you need to know about getting money for your education.

What is the FAFSA, and what does it cover?

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the application for grants and federal student loans. You should complete the FAFSA if you plan on attending college or career school and need financial assistance to pay for it.

Financial aid can go towards living expenses and class materials such as books, a computer, or equipment needed for labs. This flexibility is one of the significant benefits of financial aid, as it allows students to cover the costs of attending college without having to rely on credit cards.

The federal government uses the FAFSA to determine how much money you can receive in grants, loans, and work-study funds. Your school will also use it to determine how much aid you’re eligible to receive from them. To learn more about it, check out our complete guide to the FAFSA.

How to file for FAFSA

If you’re unsure where to start, you may wonder how to file a FAFSA application for grad school. Though it may seem complicated, the process is relatively straightforward. Let’s walk through the process together.

The first step is to create an FSA ID. If you’re a dependent student, you and your parent or guardian will use the FSA ID to sign your FAFSA electronically. Federal Student Aid explains that FSA ID is a digital signature that allows you to fill out and change the form.

Once you have your FSA ID, you can fill out the FAFSA form. The website will walk you through the form step-by-step and will let you know if there are any questions that you need to answer.

What info is needed?

To complete the FAFSA, you’ll need your most recent tax return and other income records. You’ll also need to provide information about yourself and your family.

Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your driver’s license number (if you have one)
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you’re not a U.S. citizen)
  • Your most recent federal income tax return
  • Your Financial Records
  • Untaxed income records
  • List of schools you are considering

Where to file

Federal Student Aid urges you to finish the FAFSA form online when it becomes available each year.

The earliest you can file is October 1. The form becomes available on October 1 every year, and you will use tax information from two years prior. So, if you plan to attend school in Fall 2022, you’ll use your 2020 tax return information to complete the form.

You can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center if you have any questions about completing the form. They can help you with any questions you may have about getting financial aid for school.

Important dates

The FAFSA deadline for students in 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 is June 30. However, it’s recommended that you finish the form as soon as possible to get an early start on your financial aid, as aid is provided on a first-come, first-served basis.


Federal Student Aid has general eligibility requirements that must be met to qualify, including having financial need, being a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, and enrollment in a suitable degree or certificate program at an accredited college or career school.

Even though it might appear like a lot of effort, filling out the form is not too complicated. Make sure you have all the necessary information and documents before you begin and take your time filling out the form. Review your information carefully for any mistakes to avoid delays. For example, make sure you have listed the correct school codes.

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Differences in the FAFSA for undergrad and grad school

One of the main differences between the FAFSA for undergrad and grad school is that you’ll need to provide different information about your parents.

For undergraduates, the form will ask for information about biological or adoptive parents. But for graduate or professional students, the form will not ask for this information.

According to Forbes, when it comes to graduate school financial help, all students are viewed as self-sufficient. Instead of depending on your parents’ tax paperwork, you just need to provide information about your own income and assets.

The FAFSA for graduate school has a separate asset protection allowance. It refers to the amount of money protected from being tallied when assessing your requirements. Graduate and professional students get a larger asset protection allowance than undergraduates.

According to US News, another difference between undergraduate and graduate school is that there is less financial aid available for graduate students. Additionally, interest rates are higher for federal student loans, and borrowing limits are more significant.

Some loan programs are only available to graduate and professional students. These include Direct PLUS Loans and Unsubsidized Direct Loans.

And finally, the FAFSA for graduate school asks different questions about your enrollment status. For undergraduates, the form asks about your plans to enroll full-time or part-time. But for graduate and professional students, the form asks about your enrollment in a degree or certificate program and your plans to attend school on at least a half-time basis.

Types of available federal financial aid

The FAFSA will provide information about the types of federal financial aid that you’re eligible for. The various types of aid available include:


Grants are need-based and don’t require repayment. The most common type of grant is the Federal Pell Grant, awarded to undergraduate students who haven’t earned a bachelor’s or professional degree. TEACH Grants are available to students planning on becoming teachers in a high-needs field.

Work Study

Work study is a program that allows you to earn money to help pay for your education. You can use your work study money to pay for tuition and other educational expenses.

Federal Student Loans

Loans are money that you borrow and have to pay back with interest. Different types of loans are available, including Unsubsidized Direct Loans and Grad PLUS Loans.

These available financial assistance programs can help make grad school more affordable. But remember, you’ll still need to fill out the form each year that you’re in school to remain eligible for aid.

What to do when Federal Financial Aid isn’t enough

Millions of students each year rely on federal financial aid to help pay for college. However, for many students, federal assistance is not enough to cover the total cost of tuition and other expenses. If you’re not eligible for federal financial aid or your aid doesn’t cover all of your expenses, you’ll need to look into alternatives.

  • Scholarships: Scholarships are a great way to help pay for school. Many types of scholarships are available, and you can find them through your school, private organizations, or online search engines. You should seek scholarships before taking out any federal student loans, because you don’t have to repay a scholarship.
  • Fellowships: Fellowships are another form of financial aid that can help you pay for school, awarded to graduate students based on academic achievement or professional promise. Similar to scholarships, fellowships don’t have to be repaid and should be a first option to pay for school before taking out any loans.
  • Private student loans: Private student loans are another option to help pay for school. Private loans usually have higher interest rates than federal ones, so it’s essential to compare different lenders before deciding on a loan.

These options can help you close the gap between the cost of attendance and the amount of financial aid you receive. You may also want to consider working part-time or taking on a side hustle to earn additional income. By taking advantage of all the resources available, you can make sure you can afford to pay for grad school.

If you need help narrowing down your options, look at our Top Picks for the Best Scholarships and Grants.

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If you’re thinking about going to graduate school, it’s critical to understand how the FAFSA works. The FAFSA for graduate school differs from FAFSA for undergraduates in several ways. Most notably, all students are considered independent, and less financial aid is available. Be sure to research all of your options before taking out any loans.

If you need private student loans to close any funding gaps, Purefy can help. We provide student loan refinancing and private student loans at reasonable rates from the industry’s top lenders. Our experienced personal loan advisors are standing by to help provide customized insight on how to lower your student loan debt. Schedule a consultation today to learn more about how we can help you reach your financial goals.

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