FAFSA4caster is a free financial aid calculator that gives you an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. This information helps families plan ahead for college. You must use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) to apply for aid once you’ve decided to apply for admission and attend college.
FAFSA4caster is for anyone who is not yet ready to file a FAFSA. The tool is recommended for high school juniors, and even as early as middle school. Parents of younger students can use the tool to receive early estimates, create scenarios based on future earnings, and then establish college funding strategies. Adult students also can use FAFSA4caster to get an idea of what aid they might receive.
You can find FAFSA4caster at fafsa.gov—click on the appropriate box under “Thinking About College?”
In FAFSA4caster, you answer financial and other questions that are used to estimate your federal student aid eligibility. You may be able to answer most of the questions easily, but some of the questions may ask you to reference your personal records (for instance, your federal tax information or your bank statements). Be sure to answer all the questions on FAFSA4caster, even if you have to estimate or guess.
When you submit FAFSA4caster, the tool displays a worksheet to help you determine the net cost of attending your chosen school. Here’s what you can expect to see on the worksheet:
- At the top of the page, you can enter the school’s cost of attendance (there is a link to College Navigator in case you need to look up the cost).
- Next, a number of sources of college funding are listed. FAFSA4caster indicates your estimated Federal Pell Grant amount (if any), Federal Work-Study amount (based on the average nationally), and maximum Direct Subsidized Loan and Direct Unsubsidized Loan eligibility.
- There are fields where you can fill in the amounts of state and college aid and private scholarships you expect (or hope) to get.
- Once you click on “Calculate,” FAFSA4caster summarizes the cost, the total aid entered, and the difference (the net cost of attending college). Your estimated Expected Family Contribution (EFC) also appears. You can compare schools by changing cost of attendance, deleting state aid if you will be an out-of-state student at a particular school, amending the amount of aid available from the school, and so on.