What Do Parents Need to Know About FAFSA and Financial Aid?

Learn the basic steps in the financial aid process and how parents can support their children through the process of applying for and funding their postsecondary education.

Grades 9-12 5 min Resource by:
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Parents play a key role in supporting their college-aged children. While they will likely want their young adults to be accountable and take responsibility throughout the process, parental support can be critical. By understanding the process themselves, parents can help guide their children to success while allowing them to do the majority of the work and build life skills along the way. This can be especially helpful for students who come from families with little or no prior postsecondary schooling experience. This team effort can also build family unity around the college experience.

To help parents provide guidance on this journey, the U.S. government has curated a list of parent-specific resources on their Federal Student Aid website. This information is helpful for guiding families through the financial aid process.

5 Key Steps in the Financial Aid Process

  1. Planning for Postsecondary School
  2. Applying for FAFSA
  3. Reviewing Your Aid Offer
  4. Getting Your Aid
  5. Repaying Your Loans

One of the most important steps in this process is applying for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the step that triggers eligibility for federal financial aid, such as grants and loans. It also initiates eligibility for many state and school awards. The FAFSA process must be completed each year. The submission period opens October 1 every year. In 2022, completed submissions are due at 11:59 pm CT on Thursday, June 30. Some states and schools may have earlier submission requirements in order to qualify for local grants and scholarships, so it’s a good idea to file as early as possible to maximize your opportunities for aid. The new FAFSA forms are traditionally published on October 1 for the following school year.

The Federal Student Aid site provides additional resources for parents who are seeking further assistance or information about a parent loan to help their children with school-related expenses. The list below provides a summary of this additional information. Click the link on any bullet title to explore this content more completely on the Federal Student Aid website. These links are also available by clicking the “Parent” tab on the main page of the Federal Student Aid website.

  • Apply for a Parent PLUS Loan: This program allows qualifying parents of dependent undergraduate students to apply for a Direct PLUS Loan on behalf of their child.
  • Complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) for a Parent PLUS Loan: Parents must complete this promissory note in order to apply for a Parent PLUS loan. The document outlines the terms and conditions of the loan.
  • Complete the Annual Student Loan Acknowledgment: Choose the parent option on this page to acknowledge that you understand your responsibility in repaying this loan.
  • Complete PLUS Credit Counseling: Parents of eligible dependent undergraduate students should log in and complete this online counseling session related to the PLUS Loan process. This takes approximately 20–30 minutes and must be completed in a single session.
  • Appeal a Credit Decision: Parents should complete this appeal process if they are denied a PLUS Loan due to extenuating circumstances.
  • Use the Loan Simulator: This free loan simulator can help you determine how to best manage your loans, including payment calculations and repayment options. Options are available to help you navigate the best repayment strategy, manage plans if you are struggling with loan repayments, and simulate the impact of borrowing more.
  • Find Resources for Parents: The Federal Student Aid website provides a list of additional resources to help parents with pre-college planning, understanding the costs involved in college, accessing links to key FAFSA pages, and more.