The most amount of financial aid you can receive is equal to your school’s “Cost of Attendance”, which includes tuition, room and board, books and other necessary expenses. In other words, it’s possible to receive a financial aid package that covers everything you need to pay for college, although that’s not the most likely outcome for most students.
That’s the short answer. The long answer is more complicated.
How do schools calculate financial aid offers? How do schools calculate financial aid offers?
The FSA believes that students and their families should be contributing to the costs of a student’s education, which is why the FAFSA® itself generates a score called the “Expected Family Contribution.” That number is the amount the student and his or her family is expected to contribute financially to the student’s education expenses for the academic year.
Your school will take your EFC and plug it into this formula to calculate how much financial aid to offer you:
Expected Family Contribution – Cost of Attendance = Need-based financial aid offer.
Whether that aid is offered in the form of grants, scholarships or loans is up to your school. Your school may also choose to offer you additional aid beyond your need-based financial aid offer.
How much free money does a FAFSA® applicant usually get?
The maximum Federal Pell Grant Award (which is the main grant for undergraduates through the FAFSA®) for the 2019-20 award year is $6,195. Schools may offer less than the full amount depending on the student’s need or academic load.
The maximum Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is $4,000, with an average grant of $599.
Your school may also use your FAFSA® to determine eligibility for a variety of scholarships that are awarded on the basis of merit. While it’s possible that your academic expenses are entirely covered by “full-ride” scholarships, only .3 percent of students typically receive such offers. Grants and scholarships are highly coveted by students since, unlike loans, they do not need to be paid back. The good news is that as many as two-thirds of all students receive at least some aid in the form of grants or scholarships.
Students who file their FAFSA® early are more likely to receive more money in grants and scholarships than those who wait until the last minute to file. While students who file late will still have their financial needs met, those offers are likely to contain more loans and less grants and scholarships.
What are the FAFSA® loan limits?
There are two primary types of federal student loans, the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) and the Federal Perkins Loan. Generally, the interest rates are lower on federal loans, and the repayment plans are more varied and flexible. To apply for a federal loan, you will need to file your FAFSA®.
The most you can borrow under these programs is between $3,500 and $12,500 per year for undergraduate study, depending on your dependency status and college grade level. This table has the full breakdown: