Skip to main content

Learning how FAFSA works


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

Big idea

In order 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?


  • Use the FAFSA4caster to estimate potential federal financial aid
  • Analyze FAFSA data 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 FAFSA4caster tool to estimate federal aid amounts for different scenarios.
  • Compare the financial aid packages for different student borrowers 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.

Explore related resources