FAFSA® FAQs: Everything You Need to Know

Are you excited about pursuing higher education? As you navigate the college application process, you may have questions about when to apply for admission and when to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

In this article, we’ll provide you with some guidance and answer common questions to help you make informed decisions.

Q: Should I Apply for Admission or File the FAFSA® First?

When it comes to applying to colleges and filing the FAFSA®, it’s important to prioritize. We recommend applying for admission to the colleges you are interested in BEFORE filing your FAFSA®. By doing so, you ensure that you have options and can make an informed decision about where to pursue your education. Once you receive acceptance letters, you can add those schools to receive financial aid offers.

Q: What is Work-Study and What if I Don’t Know Whether or Not I’m Interested?

If you’ve come across the term “work-study” while researching financial aid options, you might wonder what it means. Work-study is a program that allows students to earn money through part-time jobs while attending college. It’s a valuable opportunity that can help cover educational expenses.

If you’re unsure whether work-study is right for you, we recommend answering “yes” to indicate your interest when completing the FAFSA®. Keep in mind that answering “yes” doesn’t obligate you to work; it simply indicates that you would like to explore work-study options. It’s better to answer “yes” and decline later if you decide against it, rather than answering “no” and potentially missing out on this financial aid opportunity.

Q: My Parents are Divorced, How Do I Decide What Information to Put in The Parent Section?

If your parents are divorced, you may be unsure about which parent’s information to provide in the FAFSA® parent section. The rule of thumb is to use information from the parent you lived with most during the past year, regardless of which parent claims you as a dependent for tax purposes. For the parent you didn’t live with most within the last year, you won’t need to report any of their information.

In cases where you lived with both parents equally or didn’t live with either parent, it’s important to consider the parent who provided the most financial support or the parent you lived with most recently. This ensures that the FAFSA® accurately reflects your current situation.

Q: When Will I Receive my Financial Aid Award?

After submitting your FAFSA®, you will receive a confirmation page indicating the types of financial aid you may be eligible for, such as Pell Grants, Work-Study, and Student Loans. The Department of Education typically processes your application within 3–5 business days and electronically sends it to the schools you listed on your FAFSA®.

Once the schools receive your application, they may require additional information and will notify you accordingly. The timeline for receiving your financial aid award can vary, generally taking anywhere from 1 week to several months, depending on the size of the school and other factors. Rest assured, schools are committed to providing you with the necessary information as soon as possible.


As you embark on your college journey, understanding the order of tasks and knowing what to expect can alleviate some of the stress. Apply for admission to your dream colleges first, and once you receive acceptance letters, you can proceed with filing the FAFSA® to unlock financial aid opportunities. Take advantage of work-study programs if they interest you, even if you’re unsure about participating. When reporting parent information, prioritize the parent you lived with most during the past year. Finally, be patient as you await your financial aid award, knowing that schools are working diligently to provide you with the best support possible.

Remember, the college application process is an exciting time, and by staying informed and prepared, you’re setting yourself up for success. Good luck with your applications and enjoy the journey to higher education!

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