College  |  August 9, 2022  |  Winnie Sun

Top 5 Reasons to Fill Out the FAFSA®: Money Expert Winnie Sun

What you’ll learn
  • Why the FAFSA® is important
  • Why you should fill out the FAFSA®
  • How much financial aid is available
  • What kind of aid is out there

I’ve helped families manage their money for nearly two decades. My advice for college-bound high school seniors, college, and grad students?

Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)—it could translate into hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

There’s serious money on the line

Filing a FAFSA® is the single most important thing you can do to get money for college. It’s the gateway to more than $150 billion in college grants, work-study funds, and federal student loans, as well as certain state-based aid.

Most students receive some type of financial aid, so you should fill out a FAFSA® application even if you don't think you qualify. Some families assume they won't qualify for financial aid and don't even bother completing the FAFSA®. This could be a huge mistake. In 2021, students left an estimated $3.75 billion in Pell Grants on the table by not submitting the FAFSA®.1 It's so much money!

It’s free—and quick to complete

The first “F” in FAFSA® stands for free. You don’t need to pay to file it, so you want to watch out for sites that charge fees or make promises that sound too good to be true.

It takes about 21 minutes to complete your FAFSA® application! That’s less time than it would take you to get caught up on your social media. The time you spend completing a FAFSA® could translate into hundreds or even thousands of dollars that can help you pay for college.

It can be essential for some schools

The FAFSA® isn’t just for people who want or need federal student loans. Its purpose is also to determine aid you won't have to pay back, like college scholarships, grants, and even work-study funding.

Finally, some private scholarships require a FAFSA® as part of their application process. That's why completing one is so important!

Get started

Another pro-tip? The FAFSA® is first-come, first-served. Apply as soon as you can (it opens on October 1) to take advantage of federal aid for college. 

Check out this free FAFSA® Guide for more information.


Sallie Mae does not provide financial, tax, or legal advice and the information contained in this article does not constitute tax, legal, or financial advice. Sallie Mae does not make any claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in this article. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Sallie Mae. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

1. https://www.ncan.org/news/592984/NCAN-Report-3.75-Billion-in-Pell-Grants-Goes-Unclaimed-for-High-School-Class-of-2021.htm#:~:text=The%20high%20school%20class%20of,Attainment%20Network%20(NCAN)%20analysis.

External links and third-party references are provided for informational purposes only. Sallie Mae cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by any third parties, and Sallie Mae assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions contained therein. Any copyrights, trademarks and/or service marks used in these materials are the property of their respective owners.

Please note, Winnie Sun was compensated by Sallie Mae for this article but the views and opinions expressed herein are her own.