Here’s How Much Student Aid You’re Missing If You Don’t Fill Out the FAFSA

female college student working in library
asiseeit/Getty Images

There’s one thing we know for sure: The “F”s in FAFSA don’t stand for fun.

Filling out the dreaded Free Application for Federal Student Aid form is akin to a root canal for perpetually distracted high schoolers — it’s incredibly beneficial in the long run, but oh so painful when it’s happening.

So it’s not surprising that students eligible for this free cash might let it slip their mind. But here’s a number that should startle even the most prolific procrastinator: $2.3 billion.

That’s how much federal aid has gone unclaimed this year, according to an analysis by NerdWallet. More than 648,000 students eligible for Pell Grants, which don’t have to be repaid, failed to complete FAFSA forms they submitted or didn’t turn in anything at all.

They left an average of $3,583 on the table.

SMH. If there’s one thing The Penny Hoarder won’t stand for, it’s unclaimed free cash.

FAFSA Could Be Your Key to Free Cash for College

Not that we need to mention it again, but current and former students are currently holding more than $1.4 trillion in student debt, leading to all sorts of financial fallout in the U.S.

If spending a few hours filling out paperwork could help reduce that number, we’ll do anything we can to encourage you to pick up that pencil.

(Adjusts backwards baseball cap and puts skateboard down. Pulls out chair, flips it around and sits in it backward. )

Even though the Internal Revenue Service made it harder to retrieve your tax records to aid in filling out FAFSA, it’s still a relatively easy thing to do.

In fact, we broke it down to an eight-step process that shouldn’t end with you crying and snapping that pencil in two.

Here’s what you’ll need before you get started:

  • Last year’s tax return
  • Your parents’ or spouse’s social security numbers
  • The amount of income you earned last year
  • Your driver’s license number
  • The amount of money you received outside of work or bills paid on your behalf in the previous year.
  • The names of schools you have applied to or plan on applying to

Then just follow the instructions, and you should be on your way to claiming some of that free college cash.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.