The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form that college students need to fill out yearly to receive federal or state financial aid. The application for the 2023-24 academic year opened on Oct. 1, 2022, and will close on June 30, 2023.

While some families choose not to file the FAFSA, many would be surprised at how much financial aid they could get. This includes scholarships, grants and access to work-study programs, which, unlike student loans, don’t need to be repaid. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of aid that are offered through this form, as well as how much you may qualify for.

Key takeaway
Undergraduate and graduate students received a total of $234.6 billion in student aid during the 2021-22 academic year, according to the College Board.

Financial aid statistics

  • For 2019-20, the National Center for Education Statistics found that the average grant and scholarship aid for full-time students at four-year institutions was $14,080.
  • According to Sallie Mae, only 70 percent of families submitted the FAFSA for 2021-22.
  • The same Sallie Mae report found that roughly 20 percent of families who received a financial aid offer appealed for more aid and 73 percent of those appeals were granted.
  • One of the biggest misconceptions about the FAFSA is that aid is reserved for low-income students, with 25 percent of families thinking that’s the case.
  • Among households that didn’t fill out the FAFSA in 2021-22, 36 percent said they didn’t do so because they thought their income was too high.
  • Federal Student Aid data shows that approximately 17.8 million FAFSAs were submitted during the 2020-21 application cycle.
  • Over the last decade, the average grant aid per full-time undergraduate student has doubled, going from $5,190 in 2001 to $10,590 in 2021.
  • The average grant aid per full-time graduate student has increased by 37 percent from 2001-02 to 2021-22.
  • Undergraduate students received 74 percent of all student aid. This includes 96 percent of all federal grants and 52 percent of federal student loans.
  • Institutional grants and federal loans were the top sources of financial aid for undergraduates in 2021-22, accounting for 35 and 25 percent of all aid received, respectively.

What percentage of students receive financial aid?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 85 percent of students receive some form of financial aid. However, the amount students receive is based on different factors, such as the type of institution students attend (public versus private), as well as their household income.

For instance, the average scholarship and grant aid award for students attending four-year public schools in 2020-21 was $7,813. Meanwhile, those attending four-year private non-profit schools received an average of $21,011 in scholarships and grants.

Likewise, students whose household income was below the $48,000-mark, received substantially more aid than those on higher income brackets.

FAFSA filing statistics

All U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens can fill out the FAFSA. And aid is not limited to graduating high schoolers and undergraduates; students from all walks of life and pursuing many types of degrees may qualify for aid.

FAFSA filing statistics by demographic

According to data from Federal Student Aid, of those who filed a FAFSA for the 2020-21 academic year:
  • 63 percent are female students and 37 percent are male students.
  • 47 percent are first-generation college students.
  • 11 percent are 18 years old or younger, and 41 percent are age 25 or older.
  • 13 percent are pursuing a graduate or professional degree.
  • 24 percent have never attended college before.
  • 48 percent are considered dependent students, while 52 percent are independent students.

FAFSA filing statistics by state and school

According to data from Federal Student Aid, these are the states and schools that have received and processed the largest number of FAFSA applications for the 2022-23 academic year:
  • New Jersey, Indiana and Delaware are the top three states where most FAFSA applications have been processed.
  • California, Texas and New York have processed the largest number of FAFSA applications from dependent students with a total of 993,500, 707,091 and 484,029, respectively.
  • Wyoming, Alaska and Vermont have processed the largest number of FAFSA applications from independent students with a total of 115,949, 115,835 and 114,347, respectively.
  • Arizona State University, Southern New Hampshire University and the University of California in Los Angeles are the top three schools where most FAFSA applications have been processed.
  • The University of California in Los Angeles, Arizona State University and Pennsylvania State University have processed the largest number of FAFSA applications for dependent students with a total of 130,296, 111,900 and 111,779, respectively.
  • Southern New Hampshire University, Western Governors University and the University of Phoenix have processed the largest number of FAFSA applications for independent students with a total of 166,771, 137,408 and 98,097, respectively.

Financial aid by state

States offer their own grant and scholarship opportunities to residents. Many of these are available through the FAFSA, though others require a separate application. Check your state’s grant agency for more information on available opportunities.

  • $429.50
  • $751.30
  • $124.77
  • $1,262.51
  • $2,158.92
  • $599.69
  • $306.68
  • $478.62
  • $617.37
  • $1,106.75
  • $2,664.35
  • $175.26
  • $218.51
  • $1,543.61
  • $1,182.43
  • $795.69
  • $192.41
  • $2,041.48
  • $2,345.16
  • $346.75
  • $661.55
  • $405.65
  • $467.72
  • $1,233.01
  • $624.72
  • $700.80
  • $13.26
  • $310.53
  • $545.31
  • $13.55
  • $2,415.76
  • $1,965.27
  • $1,322.77
  • $1,218.76
  • $557.10
  • $334.88
  • $853.51
  • $970.54
  • $926.05
  • $184.72
  • $3,160.99
  • $176.45
  • $2,493.72
  • $967.60
  • $69.34
  • $579.75
  • $1,833.20
  • $1,636.71
  • $886.09
  • $620.13
  • NA

Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. These numbers do not account for state assistance through subsidized tuition.

Types of federal financial aid

Most federal financial aid is need based, determined using a student’s expected family contribution, but some aid is available to all students. In general, grants and work-study are based on need, while loans are not. Here are some of the types of financial aid you may receive through the FAFSA.

  • Grants: Grants are a type of free money typically distributed to students who demonstrate financial need. There are four major federal grants available through the FAFSA: the Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant and the TEACH Grant. Roughly 52 percent of students received federal grant aid in 2019-20, according to the National Center of Education Statistics.
  • Loans: Federal student loans can cover most educational expenses and are typically repaid over a period of 10 years. There are three main types: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans. Subsidized loans don’t accrue interest until after the grace period is over, which is why they’re the only type limited to students with financial need. About 41 percent of students received federal student loans in 2019-20.
  • Work-study: The federal work-study program is a need-based form of aid that allows students to work a part-time job while attending school. Students who qualify typically work an on-campus job and are encouraged to use the money they earn on academic-related expenses. In 2021-22, students received $1.1 billion in federal work-study, according to College Board.

Frequently asked questions

  • FAFSA is an acronym that stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
  • The FAFSA is the form that college students fill out when applying for federal financial aid and college-specific aid. Everyone attending a qualifying U.S. institution is eligible to submit the FAFSA regardless of age, year of school or citizenship status, though only U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens may receive federal aid.
  • The FAFSA opens each year on Oct. 1 for the upcoming academic year. For example, students applying for financial aid for the 2022-23 aid year could access the form as early as Oct. 1, 2022. The 2024-25 application opens on Oct. 1, 2023.
  • The FAFSA closes on June 30 at 11:59 p.m. CT in the academic year for which you’re applying. For example, if you were applying for the 2023-24 academic year, the due date to apply would fall on June 30, 2024.Any updates, corrections or changes can be made to the FAFSA after the application closes through Sept. 14, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. CT.
  • The amount of financial aid you’ll be eligible for will be determined by several factors. These include your filing status (dependent versus independent), household income, family size, cost of attendance and type of institution you’ll be attending (public versus private). To estimate how much aid you could get, use the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Estimator.
  • After you submit your FAFSA, the information is sent to the financial aid offices of the schools you listed on your form. When you receive your acceptance letters from colleges, you will also be sent a financial aid award letter detailing all of the aid you’re eligible for. These are typically sent out between March and April.The timing of your funds disbursement depends on your school, but typically funds will be disbursed in the weeks leading up to the start of each semester — meaning you may receive two disbursements in one academic year. However, if you’re a freshman taking out federal student loans for the first time, your loan may not be disbursed until 30 days after the start of the semester. To check on the status or timing of your funds disbursement, contact your school’s financial aid office.