FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If you plan to attend college or have a child planning to attend college in the near future, you may have already heard about FAFSA forms. Generally, if you apply for any type of financial aid to pay for college tuition expenses, you will be asked to submit a FAFSA. Even if you pay for college on your own or expect to receive scholarships, you may still be required to submit a FAFSA.

FAFSA for College

Typically, most applicants for colleges and universities complete the FAFSA as a formality. According to CollegeBoard.com, you will need to complete the FAFSA to apply for any type of federal or state student grants, work-study programs, as well as traditional student loans. Completing your FAFSA on time ensures you will be eligible to apply for any financial aid you may need, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs and student loans.

Achievement Scholarships

Some college scholarships are awarded solely on the basis of a potential student's merit in a given area. Colleges and universities recruit the best academic minds and talents from around the world to create a diverse and skilled student body. To entice a potential student, the school may offer a scholarship to an applicant who has excelled in any area of academics, sports, art or music. These achievement-based scholarships typically have nothing to do with your ability to pay and typically do not require you to complete the FAFSA, but the school may still ask you to complete the FAFSA for record-keeping purposes.

Needs-Based Scholarships

According to GetReadyforCollege.org, needs-based scholarships are awarded to students with the greatest financial need. Often referred to as grants, a needs-based scholarship may be awarded through your school, through the federal or state government, or through private organizations. Because your approval for a needs-based scholarship is determined by your family's income, you will be required to furnish proof of financial hardship. Most federal and state organizations require that you complete the FAFSA so your financial situation can be properly assessed.

Private Scholarships

If you don't mind taking the time to search and apply for multiple scholarships, you may be able to find some that do not require you to fill out a FAFSA. There are thousands of public and private scholarships that offer educational funding anywhere from $50 to $50,000. You may be able to win a scholarship award by simply writing an essay, filming a video or completing a community service project.

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