Pursuing a graduate degree can offer a multitude of benefits in the long run, both personal and professional. Though, graduate education often comes with a hefty price tag that can cause students to consider alternative options or put their dreams on hold. Fortunately, student aid services are available to help alleviate some of the financial burden. One popular aid option for graduate students is FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). In this blog, we’ll explore how FAFSA works, what it can do for you, and how to apply.

First and foremost, FAFSA is a tool used to determine the eligibility of students for federal student aid. This aid can come in various forms, including grants and loans. It is important to note, however, that FAFSA specifically provides aid for graduate students who are seeking a Master’s or PhD degree, as opposed to those pursuing professional degrees like law or medicine. It determines eligibility based on a multitude of factors, including income, family size, and other assets.

One benefit of FAFSA is that it is widely accepted by various universities, both public and private. It is often a requirement for students to apply for FAFSA in order to be eligible for other forms of financial aid or scholarships offered by the university. Additionally, FAFSA is typically free to apply, so there’s no reason not to take advantage of this resource.

Applying for FAFSA can seem overwhelming or daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be. The process is rather straightforward, and guidance is available to students through various resources like the Department of Education website, financial aid offices, and FAFSA help hotlines. It’s important to note that FAFSA should be submitted as soon as possible, as aid is given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

When applying for FAFSA, it’s important to be mindful of deadlines and to provide accurate and up-to-date information. It is also important to note that FAFSA aid is not guaranteed, and the amount awarded can vary from student to student based on their individual circumstances. That being said, even receiving a small amount of aid can make a significant difference in the long run.

What is FAFSA?

FAFSA is a government initiative that helps U.S. students apply for financial aid for their higher education. Students must meet specific requirements like submitting their academic record to be eligible for the student aid programs. If the student’s application is approved, they might receive financial benefits like grants, work-study programs, and student loans.

Eligibility Criteria for FAFSA

Graduate students can apply for FAFSA, provided they meet specific eligibility requirements. Firstly, the student must have already completed an undergraduate degree. Secondly, they should be enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program in a participating institution. Lastly, the student must be a U.S citizen or an eligible non-citizen, have a valid social security number, and be in good academic standing. 

Types of Assistance provided by FAFSA

There are two types of student aid programs offered by FAFSA: need-based and non-need-based programs. The need-based programs are reserved for students with economically disadvantaged backgrounds, whereas the non-need-based programs do not consider the applicant’s financial status. Examples of need-based programs include the Federal Pell Grant, Federal SEOG Grant, and Federal Work-Study Program. Examples of non-need-based programs include Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and TEACH Grant.

How to apply for FAFSA

The application process for FAFSA is quite straightforward, and most students complete it in less than one hour. To start the application process, you will need your FSA ID, social security number, and tax return forms, depending on your status as a student. Make sure to submit your application before the deadline for your desired academic institution. Generally, applications are accepted starting from October 1st and should be submitted before June 30th of the year when the student intends to attend college.


Graduate education is an investment in your future, both personally and professionally. Though the financial burden can be overwhelming, resources like FAFSA offer a helping hand to students seeking aid. By determining eligibility based on various factors, including income and family size, FAFSA offers aid in various forms to help graduate students reach their academic goals. With the help of FAFSA, graduate education can become a more attainable goal for students from all walks of life.

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

Follow me on Instagram and TikTok for tips and tricks on navigating the grad school application process and weekly live Q&A sessions!

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: