You’re about to submit your FAFSA application so that you can get some assistance with schooling, but you really have no idea about the process, how it works, or what’s covered. Because you need to get going with finding out what kind of federal aid is available, here are the top three FAFSA questions answered — and more.

What is FAFSA?

The acronym for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA is the form that students and their families use to apply for assistance from the federal government. Each year, the Education Department provides more than $125 billion in aid.

Before You Begin

Remember those top three questions we alluded to? Well, the FAFSA application and even the process can be somewhat confusing, so those questions usually are:

What does the FAFSA have to do with financial aid? Once you submit the application, the government will use the info you entered to set your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is the amount you and your family are expected to cough up for your education.

Can I even get financial aid? You’re basically eligible if you’re a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, have a high school diploma or are on track for one, you’re accepted or enrolled at a Title IV school, and you maintain satisfactory progress in college or grad school

When do I apply? Usually, the submissions period opens on Oct. 1 and ends more than a year and a half later, on June 30. For example, for the 2021-2022 school year, applications are accepted between Oct. 1, 2020, and next June 30. Note, though, that some colleges and states have earlier financial aid deadlines, so you’ll have to check with your school to be sure.

When Do I Get a Decision?

That’s another big question. The application itself takes about an hour to complete. How long does FAFSA take to process depends on whether you submitted your application online or snail-mailed it. With the former, the Education Department will typically process it within three to five days. If you turned in a paper FAFSA, the application is usually processed in seven to 10 days.

Once your FAFSA is processed, you’ll get a Student Aid Report (SAR), which includes the EFC. After you submit your application for each academic year, a report is sent to your school, which gets your financial aid package together.

What About Summer School?

Does FAFSA cover summer classes? Pretty much, yes — IF you’re eligible for fall or spring semester aid, FAFSA should take care of all your courses for that academic year. This includes summer courses. Just make sure that how your school classifies your summer classes, in terms of the academic year under which they fall, jibes with what you’re expecting. Your best bet is to contact your school's financial aid office about what FAFSA is required for each summer program.

What Info Does FAFSA Require?

Essentially, financial as well as personal data such as your social security number and contact info. You’ll need to include info from the previous year’s tax return for you and your parents. The government also wants to know about your bank balance, recurring expenses, and investments.

Additionally, you’ll list up to 10 colleges where you want your FAFSA information to go.

Does FAFSA Require an Annual Submission?

Would that you could fill out an app once and be done with it, eh? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. You do need to make a new submission annually to remain eligible for federal assistance. However, after you’ve gone through it the first time, you can simply submit a renewal. It won’t be that difficult if there have been no significant changes.

Now that you have the top three FAFSA questions answered and more, hopefully your takeaway is that submitting the application as soon as possible gets you all the info on all types of financial aid available, such as Pell grants and federal student loans. But if you need a private student loan to help you attain your educational goals, Juno has the best rates.