FAFSA for Grad School- Your guide for aid

This article focuses on how you can file the FAFSA easily as a grad student, difference between the undergrad application process and guides you about other financial assistance options to aid for a graduate degree.

TCM Staff

2nd March 2020

Are you a graduate student who is worried about your financial aid? Filing a FAFSA is the first step to get federal aid.

But before you file the FAFSA you must understand how the it works for graduate school, how it differs from completing it as an undergraduate. Read this article to know about how the FAFSA works for grad school, how you can fill it as a graduate student, how the process works. 

Table of content

What is a FAFSA for a graduate school?

FAFSA- Free Application for Federal Student Aid, graduates, and undergraduates fill this to get a federal aid such as a scholarship, grant or a federal student loan. It determines your eligibility for these which you submit every year. 

As a graduate, even if you filed a it as an undergraduate, you are required to submit it at the graduate school. FAFSA for a grad student is majorly filed as an independent student i.e. you don't have to provide the information of your friends. 

Fill FAFSA in easy steps

Even if you don't want federal aid for your graduate school, filing a FAFSA could be a back-up option for your federal needs. The important difference as a graduate is that if you want to fill it as an independent student or apply as a dependent on the family. Follow these easy steps to ease the application process:

Get a Federal student aid id:

The Federal Student Aid ID(student aid.gov) is a unique identification number given to the student which acts as the digital signature for the documents you fill in a FAFSA. You can register at the FSA with a valid email id and a password and this requires you to provide information such as the social security number, name, etc. Sign in with FSA Id for an easy and secure application process.

Collect all the documents:

Before you start the process, you must be aware of all the information that is required to fill a FAFSA and collect valid documents such as social security number, driver’s license, income tax returns. This could save time. We advise you to use the IRS Data Revival tool to transfer information of the previous year's tax returns for a hassle-free process.

Remember that if you fill FAFSA as an independent member, you are not required to fill certain details of your parents.

Fill the right FAFSA for you:

You must choose the correct form at studentaid.gov according to the year you want to start your graduate school. Start filing your detail, school section where you apply for the colleges according to your priority, your dependency status, parents' demography.

Provide your financial information:

Complete the form with your financial information, use the built-in IRS data revival tool, for the tax information of previous years. This lets you import your tax details in less time. You could also opt to get your tax details manually. You must also provide information about the assets and other financial details.

Submit and sign:

Finally, you sign and submit the form by using the FSA Id which allows you to lawfully attach your signature to the electronic documents. The filing process could take up to 4-60 minutes and you could expect your Student Aid report from 3-14 days.

You receive the federal aid by signing the Master Promissory Notes which is a document that details the federal loan, the term of repayment and the interest rate on that loan. Know more about the Master promissory note to know about the type of map and how it details the information of your loan. 

Read about How Long it Takes to Fill FAFSA to know about the process and when will you receive your financial aid.

How does FAFSA for Grad school differ from Undergrad?

The process of filing the FAFSA for a Grad and an undergrad student is similar, you collect information and you fill in the same way, however certain difference of FAFSA for a graduate school are given below,

The dependency status:

To fill the FAFSA for a grad school, you file your dependency status as an independent. As this is a school where you work towards being a professional or a graduate, you are considered as independent irrespective of certain factors such as age or you're dependent on parents.

Hence the majority of the students state themself as independent while filing for a grad school by providing information about their financial status and not their parents. However, some grad schools for law and medicine require information about your parents.

Not Eligible for a subsidized loan:

Students apply for a federal aid and federal student loans include the direct subsidized loans. But for a graduate degree, students can only apply for the unsubsidized loan i.e. students have to pay the interest from when the loan is borrowed. The U.S Department of Education charges an interest rate of 6% on the unsubsidized loan being borrowed.

Other differences are that the graduate students can take more loans compared to the undergrad students, but at higher interest rates.

Other types of federal aids for graduate students:

By filing a FAFSA, students can be eligible for a graduate school scholarship. It determines the eligibility of students for federal aid such as grants and federal loans can be obtained.

Graduate students who apply for federal aid are not eligible for subsidized student loans, however, students can get these federal aids to cover their graduate degree, they are:

Pell Grant- Graduate students are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant during the post-baccalaureate certification program. The Pell Grant is awarded up to $6,000 to graduate students.

TEACH Grant- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education grant  offers of up to $4,000 annually for grad students who are pursuing their career as a teaching professional. This grant may also require you to give a commitment to teaching at a high-end area after graduation.

Federal work-study program- The graduate student can also choose the option of the work-study program. This gives them the opportunity to study at the institution of their choice and work at the institution. This enables them to have an easy transition from being a student to a profession. This program would require committed students.


Covering tuition for graduate school is an accomplishment for many students. You should always plan your career. FAFSA is to assist for a federal aid for students and it is important to know the application process and how it varies from the undergrad application. Graduate students make the most off the federal loan as more aid is provided at higher interest rates. However, this could result in a difficult repayment process. Completing the FAFSA for graduate school is an easy process if you read this article to get an idea of how the process works. 

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