One of the major costs associated with medical assistant programs is certification. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines your eligibility for financial aid that can make medical assistant certification more affordable. FAFSA funding includes federal aid such as grants, work-study awards, and loans. Results from the FAFSA often determine state- and college-specific aid, including scholarships and grants. The office of federal student aid provides 13 million students with $120 billion in federal aid funding annually.

Federal financial aid is not restricted by type of program or college. All prospective medical assistant students enrolled or accepted to an eligible program may qualify for federal aid. Aid can include gift aid, such as grants, or aid that must be repaid, such as subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Students can use the aid received for tuition, room and board, and supplies. It’s important for all students to complete the FAFSA by the federal, state, or school deadline, whichever is earliest. Completing the FAFSA is the first step in receiving aid that will help medical assisting students earn their certification.

How to Get Financial Aid in Medical Assisting

Multiple forms of financial aid are available to medical assisting students from both public and private sources. Financial aid may be available for a student’s specific program of interest, or more generalized and available to students of all majors, such as federal financial aid. Specific and generalized aid can come in the form of gift aid, such as grants and scholarships; loans, which must be repaid; and work-study programs, which allow students to work to earn funding.

FAFSA Funding

Students who complete the FAFSA qualify for multiple forms of aid. Many students are interested in gift aid, such as grants, which usually do not have to be repaid. Borrowed money, or loans, must be repaid with interest. Work-study programs require students to work on campus or at designated off-campus locations to earn money for tuition and fees. Students can use federal student aid for educational expenses including tuition, books, transportation, and housing. If a student needs supplies or to pay for childcare to attend classes, federal aid covers that as well.

One of the federal aid eligibility requirements is that the FAFSA is completed every year. Students also have to make satisfactory academic progress, which usually means maintaining a certain grade point average and completing a minimum number of courses.

Calculating aid factors include a student’s year in school, the number of classes they’re enrolled in, and the program’s cost of attendance (COA). Another major factor is the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), which accounts for the income of the student’s family, financial assets, and family size. To determine aid, the FAFSA takes the COA and subtracts the EFC, leaving the amount of aid a student needs.

FAFSA Eligibility Requirements

To receive federal aid, students must meet basic FAFSA eligibility criteria. In addition to a high school diploma or GED, students must be accepted to or enrolled in an accredited certificate or degree program. Applicants must also have a Social Security number and be either a U.S. citizen, have a green card, or be an eligible noncitizen. Prospective aid recipients must also certify that they use any federal funding received for educational purposes only and must not default on a federal loan. Students must maintain satisfactory academic progress to keep their financial aid.

How to Complete the FAFSA

When Should You Submit the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is available annually on October 1, and completing the FAFSA as soon as possible yields benefits to prospective students. Some state and college aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. According to a CNBC article, students who filed their FAFSA within the first three months received more than twice as much grant money as students who filed later.

It’s important when filing to have accurate financial records from the previous year’s tax returns. CNBC suggests that families file the FAFSA when they demonstrate the most aid eligibility. Most importantly, students should complete the FAFSA in advance of their earliest college application deadline.

What Information Do You Need to Fill Out the FAFSA?

For all of the FAFSA requirements, dependent students should provide both their own tax records as well as their parent’s records. First, create an FSA ID, used to confirm identity and to electronically sign federal student aid documents. Each FSA ID is unique, so both the student and at least one parent must create an FSA ID for FAFSA application. In addition to the FSA ID, students should have their driver’s license number and their Social Security number or Alien Registration number.

Prepare a list of potential colleges beforehand to send your FAFSA results directly to the schools. At least one federal school code is required when completing the FAFSA, as schools use this information to determine a student’s aid eligibility and the overall financial aid package offered upon admission.

Filling Out Your FAFSA

There are several ways to complete the FAFSA, with an online and and printable version which can be mailed. You can also call and request a paper FAFSA be mailed to you.

The first part of the FAFSA asks about student information, including basic information such as name, address, Social Security number, birth date, and educational history. Then students complete their financial information about their own income and assets. The third part of the FAFSA determines student status, either dependent or independent. Dependent students live with their parents and cannot support themselves financially, whereas independent students support themselves and live alone or with a spouse or domestic partner. If you file as a dependent, the FAFSA requires your parents’ Social Security numbers, marital status, and financial information including income, tax exemptions, and assets. The final step is to select schools that will receive the FAFSA.

After completing this information, students will sign off on their FAFSA. Students must agree to certifying statements that outline the terms of student aid and future repayment. These statements also confirm that the IRS verifies the tax information given. The FAFSA is then signed electronically with the FSA ID. Congratulations, the FAFSA is complete!

Tips for Filling Out Your FAFSA

  • Apply Online: Online FAFSAs are processed faster, only ask relevant questions, and may be more accurate, as the website catches errors. Before final submission, students can review all of their information in a convenient PDF.
  • Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool: The IRS data retrieval tool simplifies the application by automatically retrieving tax returns you or your parents submitted online. This lowers the chance of inputting mistakes when entering tax information manually.
  • List Your Potential Schools in a Particular Order: Federal aid does not require colleges to be listed in a certain order. However, some states require that schools be listed in a certain order to be eligible for state grant aid. Check states’ specific requirements before listing potential schools.
  • Fill Out Every Field of the Form: Any mistakes or incomplete information delays application processing. If a field doesn’t apply, write the numeral zero instead of leaving it blank, according to Time. Another advantage to the online application: it alerts students to any leftover blank fields before submission.
  • Include an Explanatory Letter for Special Circumstances: A family with special circumstances, such as a recent job loss or an emergency affecting finances, should send a letter and documentation to financial aid offices of prospective schools.

Submitting the FAFSA

How Do You Submit Your FAFSA?

The easiest way to submit the FAFSA is for the student and parents to sign it electronically with their FSA IDs. Another option is to print the signature page and mail it in, though this delays FAFSA processing. A confirmation page appears after the FAFSA is submitted, which the student should print and save.

Student Aid Report

A Student Aid Report (SAR) lists the information that a student provided on the FAFSA. If the FAFSA was submitted and signed electronically and the student provided an email address, the SAR link arrives through email in 3-5 days. Paper SARs arrive in two weeks. Any schools listed on the SAR also have access to the report the day after it is processed. Students should review their SAR for accuracy. If there is a mistake, students need to correct their FAFSA.

How and When Do You Get Your FAFSA Funding?

Once a student has been accepted to a college and the school receives their FAFSA information, the school calculates the student’s aid and sends an award letter. Students do not have to accept all of the aid offered and should only accept what they need. Review the different types of aid and the repayment options before accepting any aid. Financial aid is usually paid out twice per year and, in most cases, once per term.


What’s the Deadline for Filing the FAFSA?

The federal deadline for online FAFSA applications is midnight Central Time on June 30. Corrections should be submitted by midnight, September 14. States and colleges may have different deadlines.

Do You Need Good Grades to Receive FAFSA Funding?

While grades can help students earn academic scholarships, most federal aid programs do not consider high school transcripts. Students need to maintain satisfactory academic progress to continue receiving financial aid.

Is There an Age Limit for FAFSA Aid Recipients?

Age is not part of the eligibility requirements for federal financial aid, so students of all ages can advance their careers through higher education.

Can Your Household Income Automatically Disqualify You from FAFSA Funding?

No, there is not a household income threshold to qualify for financial aid. Students in all income brackets should complete the FAFSA for federal, state, and institutional aid consideration.

Do Your Parents Have to Be U.S. Citizens for You to Be Eligible for FAFSA Aid?

No, the FAFSA does not ask if parents are U.S. citizens. Parents without Social Security numbers should enter 000-00-0000 on the FAFSA.

How Long Does It Take to Fill Out the FAFSA?

It generally takes about 30 minutes to complete the FAFSA. Just remember to have your FSA ID and financial documents to make the process as easy as possible.

Can You File Your FAFSA Before You’ve Applied to Any Schools?

Yes, students can complete the FAFSA before applying to colleges, but students must list at least one school on the FAFSA. Colleges can always be added and deleted later.

Where Can You Find More Information About the FAFSA?

Students can go to fafsa.gov to complete the form. Most FAFSA and financial aid questions can be answered at StudentAid.gov.