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Learning how FAFSA works


Students learn about how the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) works by completing a simulation activity.

Big idea

To receive federal financial aid (e.g., grants and loans), you (or your family) must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Essential questions

  • How can the FAFSA help you and your family pay for higher education?
  • How does your family’s financial situation affect the amount of federal financial aid you may receive?


  • Understand how the FAFSA helps students and their families pay for higher education
  • Analyze financial aid packages to explore how federal aid amounts may differ based on a student’s current family and financial situations

What students will do

  • Use the online Federal Student Aid Estimator tool to estimate federal aid amounts for different scenarios.
  • Compare the financial aid packages for different students to better understand eligibility criteria for federal financial aid.

Download activity

Teacher guide

Learning how FAFSA works (guide)

Student materials

Learning how FAFSA works (worksheet)

All about FAFSA (handout)

Note: Please remember to consider your students’ accommodations and special needs to ensure that all students are able to participate in a meaningful way.

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