Do FAFSA and the GI Bill work together? What is FAFSA? Do I need to file a FAFSA in order to get my GI Bill? These are just some of the questions we hear regarding Veterans using the GI Bill. The VA webpage is doing a good job making it easier to get the GI Bill started for a Veteran, as well as manage it. However, there is still a lot of confusion and misinformation floating around about this particular benefit.
What is the FAFSA?
Let’s begin here. The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Federal student aid is the largest single source of financial aid. The application can be filled out online and allows students access to federal grants like the Pell Grant. It also gives access to work study and student loans for education. All of these are accessed through this one application. In addition, there are many states and universities which utilize the FAFSA to determine if you are eligible for student aid at the state or school level. There are even some private providers who use the FAFSA to determine if you meet their criteria for aid.
In order to be eligible for any Federal student aid, you MUST fill out and submit the FAFSA. However, the GI Bill is different. You do NOT have to fill out the FAFSA in order to utilize your GI Bill.
Why Should I Fill Out the FAFSA?
So, you have your Bachelor Degree paid for by your GI Bill and even a living stipend because you are on the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you are getting your education paid for already, why bother filling out the FAFSA?
That’s an easy answer. Because college is expensive, and there are more expenses than just tuition. Expenses may include books, computer and internet access, lab fees, athletic fees, and a host of other costs that go with getting a College degree. There are students who fund their study abroad opportunities through extra scholarships they receive because of filling out the FAFSA.
That being said, the benefits of filing the FAFSA are numerous. Even if a Veteran is receiving the GI Bill, they may qualify for other scholarships or grants due to their financial situation. All federal scholarships and grants, and many state and institution grants and scholarships require the FAFSA in order to be eligible.
Also, many outside scholarships and grants (outside of federal/state purview) require students have filed the FAFSA in order to qualify. Many scholarships sponsors are looking for the most deserving students and so require a FAFSA in order to help ensure they choose the right recipients.
In addition, most students are eligible for some level of federal aid, whether that is grants, low interest Federal student loans, or work studies. In order to qualify for work-study, which not only provide an income for part time work but also help to round-out a resume, Veterans must have filled out the FAFSA.
Military and Veteran Aid
There are several sources of scholarship and grant aid for Service Members and Veterans as well as their dependents. If a student is not eligible for the Pell Grant and their parent / guardian died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept 11, 2001, they may be eligible for the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant for education. The maximum amount is the same as the maximum Pell Grant award.
Other sources include veteran service organizations such as the Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, VFW, and American Legion which offer scholarships each year to active duty military, Veterans, and their families.
When Can I Fill Out the FAFSA
Many of the Federal and State grants are awarded on a first-come first-served basis. The FAFSA opens on October 1 for the following school year. Filling it out early gives Veterans a better chance to be on the receiving end of any Federal, State, or institutional grants they may be eligible for. And again, a large percentage of students are eligible for some form of assistance.
Filling out the FAFSA is quick and easy. As the name itself says, it is free to do so. The simple truth of the matter is that there are many reasons TO fill out the form, and no reasons not to. The FAFSA application can be accessed here.
As always, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comment section below or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.