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Preparing for Financial Aid with the New Federal Student Aid Estimator

Starting college is exciting, but it can also bring financial challenges. Luckily, there's a helpful tool called the Federal Student Aid Estimator. With it, you can get an early idea of how much federal financial aid you might qualify for. In this blog post, we'll explore the Federal Student Aid Estimator and explain the various types of aid included in the estimator, including Pell Grants, Direct Loans, and Work-Study. Get ahead of the game when the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for the 2024-25 school year opens in December.

Understanding the Federal Student Aid Estimator

What is the Federal Student Aid Estimator?

The Federal Student Aid Estimator is an online tool designed to provide students and their families with an early estimate of their eligibility for federal financial aid. You can start planning for your education right away, even before the FAFSA opens in December.

The Student Aid Index (SAI)

The SAI is a numerical index that determines your eligibility for federal student aid based on factors like income, assets, and family size. A lower SAI means a higher eligibility for aid. If your SAI falls between negative $1,500 and $0, you may qualify for a maximum Pell Grant.

Types of Aid Included in the Estimator

The Estimated Federal Student Aid that you get from using the Federal Student Aid Estimator can cover expenses such as tuition, fees, books, supplies, food, housing, and travel. Here is an example of a sample estimate obtained using the Estimator:

This Estimated Federal Student Aid amount includes:

  • Federal Pell Grant: The Federal Pell Grant Program assists undergraduates from low-income households. It's a grant, not a loan, so you don't have to repay it, except under certain circumstances. The Federal Pell Grant can significantly reduce your educational expenses. The maximum Federal Pell Grant award was $7,395 for the 2023–24 award year.

  • Federal Direct Loans: Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans are federal student loans that can help you cover educational costs. For example, if you're a dependent first-year undergraduate, you may be eligible for a maximum total of $5,500 in Direct Subsidized and/or Unsubsidized Loans for a single academic year. Keep in mind that these annual loan limits can vary based on your academic year and dependency status. You need to repay these loans with interest, so it's important to borrow only what you need and consider your repayment options carefully.

  • Federal Work-Study: Federal Work-Study provides part-time job opportunities for students with financial need. To access these funds, you'll need to be awarded work-study and secure a job through the program. This can help you earn money and gain work experience during your studies. In 2023, students with eligible work-study jobs earned an average of $1,821.

Other Factors to Consider

Cost of Attendance (COA)

Your college determines your financial need by considering the Cost of Attendance (COA), which includes more than just tuition.

Additional Aid

While the Federal Student Aid Estimator provides you with an estimate of your federal student aid, it's important to note that it doesn't predict the financial aid you may receive from your home state, colleges or universities, or external organizations. To explore additional financial aid options, you can contact your state grant agency to learn more about state aid programs that can help offset your college expenses.

Next Steps

To complete the FAFSA form, when the time comes, you'll need to create an FSA ID. Watch the “How to Create An FSA ID” video for a step-by-step guide. Additionally, use tools like the College Scorecard to compare costs and fit factors of your prospective colleges.


Don't wait until December to start planning for your higher education finances. The Federal Student Aid Estimator is a valuable tool that can help you estimate your eligibility for federal financial aid. With early planning, you can confidently pursue your academic dreams.



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