Banking and Finance

How to Apply for Student Loans: Navigating FAFSA

July 27, 2021

In the United States alone, about 45 million borrowers collectively owe nearly $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. While that might seem staggering, it’s likely due to the fact that 65% of jobs in the country require a post-secondary degree. So, what other choice do you have when it comes to funding a college career?

If you’ve applied to college and have been accepted, congrats! The next step is funding the costs of getting a postsecondary degree. And, lucky for you, that’s what grants and student loans are for. 

How do you apply for student loans? You’ll have to fill out the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. When’s the FAFSA due date in 2020 and how do you apply? We’ll walk you through the steps.

What is FAFSA?

As mentioned, FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. And, it’s an online-based application system that assesses your financial situation and that of your parents to determine the kind of aid you’re eligible for, which can include everything from standard student loans to work-study opportunities or even grants.

Don’t worry if this sounds daunting. According to the American Student Assistance Organization, about 60% of students borrow to cover their college costs each year, and nearly every single one of those people had to apply for their loans through FAFSA first. Think of it as a rite of passage of sorts as you begin your post-secondary education journey.

It’s also important to note that you can re-apply if your financial situation changes significantly. This is particularly important right now as millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis and subsequent government lockdowns. If you or your family have been affected and you’ve already applied, you can reapply for adjustments.

When is the FAFSA Deadline in 2020?

Even though the FAFSA is, as the name suggests, a federally-based student aid system, there are various different FAFSA deadlines.

Currently, the federal deadline to apply for FAFSA for the 2020-2021 school year is 11:59 p.m. Central time on June 30, 2021. You have until 11:59 p.m. CT on September 11, 2021, to submit corrections or modifications.

However, each college and each state also have their individual deadlines. It’s important to get in touch with a student advisor at your college to inquire about their FAFSA deadline for 2020 as things might have changed with school shutdowns and closures.

And, finally, states have their own individual deadlines for state-mandated programs, which are often grants that you’ll definitely want to apply for as you won’t have to pay them back. On the FAFSA deadline page, you’ll usually be able to see whether or not the deadline means that your documents need to be postmarked by that date or have already arrived by that date.

How to Apply for FAFSA

Applying for FAFSA is actually quite easy once you have all of the documents you need in order. You’ll start by getting an FSA ID at Then, it’ll be time to gather all of the documents you’re going to need to submit. This could include:

  • Tax returns (yours if applicable, but namely your parents’)
  • W2s
  • Drivers license
  • Social security number
  • Bank statements
  • Any information regarding your family’s investments and assets

Why do you need your parents’ tax returns to apply for FAFSA? If you’re applying as a dependent, then FAFSA will look at your parents’ income to determine your eligibility for financial aid. If you’re applying as an independent, however, they’ll only look at your tax returns if you’ve worked enough to file them.

Once you submit this information, the system will come up with something called the Expected Family Contribution or EFC. This number will allow colleges to see how much assistance you need to cover the costs of attending the university. Based on this, you’ll be provided with various different types of loans that suit your needs.

The application itself is pretty easy to follow along with as they prompt you to enter numbers and information at each step of the way. After filling out the application, you will submit it online and it will be processed within three to five days.

Covering Additional College Costs

Budgeting for college is a big deal, especially if you don’t receive enough financial aid to cover the full costs of everything you need, whether that’s paying for food or purchasing a new laptop. We don’t believe that you should have to struggle in order to make ends meet in college.‍

And, that’s part of why we think the Cheese Debit Card is a great option for college students looking to save money. It provides saving bonuses and cashback. Without any fee charged, you can save more by doing, well, pretty much nothing. It’s an easy way to start saving for college now regardless of how much financial aid you receive.

Interested? Learn more and join our growing community of super savers using the Cheese Debit Card.

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