Graduate Students Can Fill Out the FAFSA Too!

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What You Should Know About FAFSA for Grad School

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA for grad school is federal aid issued by the US Department of Education. The money typically pays for many expenses, such as tuition, books, room and board, fees, or supplies. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify.

FAFSA forms for the 2020 – 21 academic year usually need to be submitted by end of the day (11:59 pm) Central Time on June 30, 2021. If you have any updates to your forms, you may need to make them by the end of the day on September 11, 2021. FAFSA season typically opens on October 1 of every year and closes on June 30.

A graduate student is anyone pursuing a degree that is beyond a bachelor’s. So if you were pursuing a Ph.D or an M.D, you would still count as a graduate student. For undergraduate students who are doing a joint graduate school program, you may want to speak to your school advisors. How they classify you as a student will may have a lot to do with the aid you’re eligible for.

How is the FAFSA for Grad School Different than Undergrad?

In undergraduate, FAFSA is generally given out on a needs basis. You must show that you face financial hardship to qualify. This is true to some extent with graduate students too. But FAFSA is typically more accepting of graduate students. This is because more aid tends to come in the form of loans rather than grants.

The type of federal aid available to students depends on where you are in your career. The Pell Grant program is more inclusive of undergraduates. But Pell grants may be available for some grad students who qualify. It may depend on your major and financial background.

The key difference is that you may no longer be viewed in relation to your parents. To the federal government, you may be a independent. This means that the committee may look at your income and assets only. If you are married though, the federal committee may take into account your spouse’s income as well.

What FAFSA Grad School Loans Could You Apply For?

Stafford Unsubsidized Loan

The main federal loan that students have access to is the Direct Unsubsidized Loan. This is sometimes called a Stafford Unsubsidized loan. The most that you’re eligible for is $20,500 per year for traditional grad school programs. Or $40,500 per year for qualified health care professionals. This is generally applied to those attending med school.

Grad PLUS Loan

Many graduate programs cost more than $20,500 per year though. In this case, you may qualify for the Grad PLUS loan. With this loan, you may  supplement your costs with extra federal aid.

As an independent student, you may be expected to pay for everything while you’re in school. Direct PLUS loans will take into account both the cost of the degree program and additional costs. A federal committee may first calculate the total Cost of Attendance. This takes into account basic expenses, including housing and room and board. It bases the number of averages in the area. (After all, a student in Berkeley may have higher student housing than one in Cleveland.) The PLUS loan may then deduct that number from the amount of aid you’ve already been granted.

The interest rates for both federal student loans may vary based on when you apply for the loan and what type of loan you qualify for. The Grad PLUS loan may have higher interest rates than the Stafford loan. For the 2020 year, a Stafford loan is 4.3% while the PLUS loan is 5.3%.

Lenders charge interest from the moment you take out the loan. But you typically do have the option to defer payments until you graduate if you qualify for federal loans. You’re also granted a 6-month grace period to pay back these loans. This way, you have time to both search for a job and get settled into a financial routine.

Federal Work-Study Program

You may also consider the federal work-study program. This typically provides part-time jobs for graduate students who show financial need. You may see different assistantships where you can learn research techniques that may help further your career. This may allow students to earn money before rather than after they graduate, and it also benefits the community.

It typically gets students involved based on where they attend school. The federal program encourages you to work in your field of study. After you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree, it may be exactly what you need to further develop your skills.

The Federal Work-Study Program is usually available to full- and part-time students. The program is considered part-time employment while you’re still in school. Your school must first take part in this program though. It’s the individual schools that coordinate the details (not a federal department).

Jobs for this program may be located either on or off-campus. Generally speaking, working on the campus means that you’re working for the school. If you’re leaving campus, it may usually be for either a nonprofit business or some type of public agency. There may be more restrictions applied to for-profit schools than not-for-profit schools.

Whether you’re staying on campus or venturing off, all work you do must generally be for the public’s best interests. In some cases, you might be placed at a for-profit employer. As long as the position is relevant to your chosen program, you may still qualify.

The funds for the work-study program are generally limited. This is why it helps to apply for this benefit earlier rather than later. When it comes to how much money you could earn, you may receive at the least the federal minimum wage.

You might make more though depending on both the nature of the work and the skills you need to complete the job. Your award may depend on when you apply, the funding given to the school, and your level of financial need.

Federal Scholarships

You could also look into federal scholarships available to graduate students. Like our other examples, these programs may still need you to fill out the FAFSA. The amount that you receive may vary but could be as high as the full cost of your tuition and fees.

Some scholarships are typically based on the academic institution you attend. Others may depend on the federal partners working with the government. For instance, you might see a local branch or agency offer a scholarship if they’ve chosen to partner with the federal government. It’s not always easy to predict what scholarships may be available. Different programs may pop up depending on anything from location to career choice. For example, if you enter your masters in nursing during a major shortage, there might be more help available.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant

You could also look into the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. This financial aid typically provides up to $4,000 per year. To qualify, you may  need to both take certain types of classes and accept a certain kind of job. If you end up taking a job that doesn’t qualify under the terms of the grant, the aid may covert to a loan.

There may be loans that you may be eligible for based on your circumstance. In this case, you might be eligible for more funding through a service grant. There may also be certain resources available to students who are homeless. For instance, the Federal Student Aid and Home Homeless Youth may be able to explore options for you.

These programs are not technically available through FAFSA. But they are federal endeavors that may be able to supply extra funds for your education. You should be as detailed as possible when filling out the FAFSA®  dependency status information. If you are either homeless of have been in foster care before, there may be more opportunities available.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

Finally, students with intellectual disabilities may qualify for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. They may also be more likely to be chosen for a Federal Work-Study Programs.

FAFSA Eligibility Requirements for Grad School Students

You may see plenty of eligibility similarities if you’ve already filled out a FAFSA several years ago. For example, you may still use the form to prove that you have a pressing need for financial help. But there is no maximum income that would define you as ineligible.

A federal committee looks at each application on a case-by-case basis. To qualify for federal aid, you must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen. If you have a green card, you would likely be eligible as a noncitizen. This shows that you are a permanent resident..

The undergraduate FAFSA typically has a lot to do with your parents. The committee may consider your family’s financial background before determining the level of aid. For graduate students, this may not be necessarily factored in. But sometimes the committee may consider your parent’s income. This usually happens if you’re choosing an intensive program, like law school or medical school. This expected family contribution (EFC) may depend on both your parent’s income and their motivation to help you pay for school.

It’s important to resist assumptions when filling out the FAFSA application. Your experience may depend on the program you’ve chosen and the school you’re attending. Professional students obtaining their graduate degree may need to pursue many types of aid before securing enough funding.

You may apply for FAFSA at any age. When it comes eligibility, there are also a few things that you should know. Like your undergraduate career, grades can have an impact. Taking part in internships could also influence your overall award. This shows that you’ve made the effort to get hands-on experience in your field.

It’s important to work as hard as possible to show your merit, even your last semester of senior year.

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How Do You Apply for FAFSA for Grad School?

The first thing you typically do is visit where you’ll get a FAFSA ID. The FAFSA for grad school may  only be accessed electronically. You typically  need internet access to complete and submit your application. The FAFSA ID distinguishes your application from other students. You may need to keep it handy as you fill out the forms. To create an ID, you usually  need to supply your email. You’ll create a username as well as a password.

Once you have your FAFSA ID, you’ll visit To apply, you typically  need your driver’s license number and Social Security number. You may also be asked to supply copies of your tax returns. So if you were applying in the 2020/21 school year, you would need to supply your returns from 2018. Remember that FAFSA season closes June 30. You could apply for 20/21 if you’ll be attending anywhere from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

After you’ve chosen the appropriate year, you’ll fill out your basic information. In the School Section, you should add every school that you’re considering applying to. You typically do not need an acceptance letter to list different schools in this section. You usually don’t even need to show an application to the school to list it.

When you’re submitting your tax forms, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to import your records to the FAFSA. It’s easy to do and the system may walk you through each step. As long as you’ve already filed your taxes, you may check this box this on the student finances page.

If you haven’t completed your taxes, you may not have access to the DRT tool. If you do not see the “Link to IRS” button while you’re filling out your information, you could have two options. You can either indicate that you are going to file or that you’re not going to file.

If you’ve chosen that you won’t be filing, you may not have to answer questions. For example, you recently arrived in the US or you don’t have any work history. In this case, you could skip questions that request information about your income tax, adjusted gross income, or exemptions.

If you’ve chosen that you will file, you could use your past records to estimate your income. If you made a similar amount in 2017, then you may input that information for 2018. There’s also an income estimator button on the FAFSA if your income significantly fell or rose from 2017. The FAFSA has designed its questions to get an appropriate sense of how much you have. The committee is identifying how the federal government may  best help you supplement your current assets.

What Else Do You Need to Do to Apply For Loans for Grad School?

Whether you opt for a direct loan or not, the best advice is to be persistent when requesting information. Once you’ve settled on a school, talk to the people in the financial aid office. They may tell you more about how you could get the most from the FAFSA.

There may also be private loans available for graduate school students. This may be worth exploring if you’re unable to secure all the funding you need through FAFSA. In general, these loans tend to be riskier than federal aid though because they are less flexible. The federal government typically allows for more repayment options based on your circumstances. For example, if you’re unable to meet your expected earnings potential after graduating. Federal loans may allow you to pay based on your actual income.

If you haven’t selected a school, start getting a better idea of how they work with federal aid. Each school may have its own policies. Some schools may be more likely to partner with the US Department of Education. For instance, some schools may take the time to arrange student work programs. If a student is unable to pay for their education through FAFSA, they may arrange other funding. Other schools either won’t qualify or find it too difficult to meet expectations.

If you choose to receive private loans, you may l need to speak with a variety of lenders in this case. Make sure that you’re getting upfront information about both the interest rates and the fees. You may  also need to consider the terms of each loan. With federal loans, you typically  have a deferment option until you graduate. But a private lender may offer no such option.

In addition, private lenders may only provide you a loan with variable interest rates, which may go up over time. This typically forces you to pay more interest than you might have originally budgeted for. With federal aid, you may  be granted fixed interest rates. This way, you could  always budget ahead of time, rather than have to worry about an increase in rates. You may also potentially be eligible for loan forgiveness under certain circumstances.

Finally, you could also look into aid from your state. Different states may offer their own assistance, based on what profession you’re choosing and where you’re going to school. Financial aid for graduate school can be seen as a way to help an entire community.

After Submitting Your FAFSA

After you’ve submitted a FAFSA, you may receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). This report may go over the information that you’ve submitted to the federal agency. The SAR may usually come within five business days.

All schools that you apply to (or will apply to) may need this report when considering your application. School officials may estimate what kind of federal financial aid you’re likely to receive, and determine what they need to do to participate in the loan program.

The federal government may not contact you directly about your loan amount. Instead, you may receive acceptance letters from the schools to which you’ve applied. Along with the acceptance letter, you may also receive information about your financial aid package. You may be asked to sign a promissory note that indicates that you may pay back what you’ve been given.

The school’s financial aid office may inform you of any stipend that you’ve received or the types of financial aid that you have qualified for. This information can take anywhere from weeks to months to receive. It may depend on the time of year you applied and how long it takes for your school to process their acceptance letters.

There is no guaranteeing what kind of loan or grant you may  receive. Many students may qualify for the Stafford loan maximum though of $20,000. If you’re in a certain field, such as computer science, you’re more likely to qualify for grants.

The federal government has many requirements for both individual students and schools. The best way to take advantage of the program is to talk to the schools that you want to attend. You may  learn more about the specific opportunities available to you, so you have the best chance of success.

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