How Do I Use FAFSA4caster®?

The FSA developed the FAFSA4Caster® to help students get an idea of how much they can expect to pay for college. The FAFSA4Caster® is a simplification of the FAFSA® itself and requires only basic personal information and income estimates to generate its projections.

What is the Purpose of the FAFSA4caster®?

FAFSA4caster® is designed for families just beginning to explore the world of higher education financing. It’s free and provides a good idea of how much financial aid a student might qualify for. It also gives you a realistic picture of the costs associated with that degree. In that way, it’s a sort of reality check for many families.

It’s critically important to understand that this tool is a calculator that deals only with estimates. It is NOT the FAFSA® itself, which is a much more lengthy and detailed form. When you’re ready to actually apply for admission to your school of choice, then you’ll file the regular FAFSA®.

What Do I Need To Fill Out The FAFSA4Caster?

To fill out the FAFSA4Caster, you will need the following information:

  • Your personal information (date of birth, marital status, dependency status)
  • If dependent, your parent’s information (age, marital status, family size)
  • An estimate of your income and financial assets
  • An estimate of your parent’s income and financial assets (if you are dependent)
  • An estimate of your spouse’s income and financial assets (if you are married)
  • Estimated Cost of Attendance at your school of choice (College Navigator is a helpful tool)

Note how often the word “estimate” is used in the above list. Since the FAFSA4Caster is just a tool to give students and their families an idea of how much financial aid they may be available for, strict accuracy is not necessary.

What Does the FAFSA4caster® Tell Me?

After you enter the basic information, the FAFSA4caster® displays a worksheet that helps you figure out, among other things, how much you can expect to pay for an education at your chosen institution. You’ll first be given estimates for the following:

  • Pell Grant
  • Work-Study
  • Direct Loans

After you receive those estimates, you will also have the opportunity to enter the amount you expect to receive in non-Federal grants and scholarships.

Once you’ve entered that information, the FAFSA4Caster® will generate the following estimates:

Lastly, the FAFSA4Caster® will recommend you or your parent take out Direct PLUS Loans to cover the remaining balance.

It’s important to remember that the FAFSA4Caster® is a tool for estimating only, and it’s only as accurate as the information you plug into it. The information generated from this tool cannot be transferred over when it’s time to complete the full FAFSA®. While the FAFSA4Caster® is not as precise as the full FAFSA®, when used in conjunction with your own research and the wise counsel of your school’s financial aid office, you should get a good starting point to prepare for college.