Free FAFSA Guide
Students cannot file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before October 1, but they can get an early personalized estimate of their eligibility for federal student financial aid using the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA4caster. This tool calculates an estimate of the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and uses it to determine the amount of federal financial aid the student is likely to receive.
This tool is not as accurate as the actual FAFSA, but it can still provide a useful estimate of what students can expect.
Students and parents can also use net price calculators to get an estimate of their eligibility for need-based aid at specific colleges and universities.
The FAFSA4caster (FAFSA Forecaster) calculates the amount of federal aid a student is eligible to receive based on a number of factors, such as age, income, marital status, school year, state of residence, family size and number of family members in college. Assets are inferred based on income. After the student or parent provides the required information, the calculator displays an estimate of the student’s federal aid eligibility, broken down by type of aid (e.g., federal grants, Direct Stafford loans, and Federal Work-Study).
Students may also manually enter any outside scholarship, grant, or loan information they have to calculate a net cost.
Tip: The more accurate information provided, the closer the estimate will be. Unlike the FAFSA, the FAFSA4caster does not require a student to have an FSA ID or to provide a name and other personally identifiable information. Students and parents can use the tool anonymously. They can also play what-if games or run simulations, changing the answers to specific questions to get insights into the impact on student aid eligibility.
Note: The FAFSA4caster is not an application for financial aid and the information provided on the form cannot be transferred into FAFSA on the Web. Students must file the FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov to apply for federal, state and college financial aid. Some students may also need to complete a supplemental aid application such as the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE and/or college-specific forms to be considered for the college’s own funds.
To start calculating an estimate of financial aid eligibility, the FAFSA4caster.
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