How To Use The FAFSA4caster

FAFSA4Caster - FB

How To Use The FAFSA4caster

Published July 3, 2019

FAFSA4Caster - FB

The FAFSA4caster is a free prediction tool from the U.S. Department of Education that gives families an early estimate of their eligibility for federal student aid. Like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the FAFSA4caster uses your household income and assets to determine your expected family contribution or EFC.

The FAFSA4caster is not an application for aid, but is a planning tool for anyone not yet ready to submit a FAFSA form. It is highly recommended that high school juniors, and parents with children even as early as middle school should use the FAFSA4caster to receive early estimates of federal aid, create scenarios based on future earnings, and then work on college funding strategies.

How Does The FAFSA4caster Work?

TheFAFSA4caster can help families estimate the amount of federal student aid a student might receive based on a family’s income and assets.

The results are offered in terms of the potential eligibility for a Federal Pell grant, federal work study, and student loans.

By learning this information early, families can get a head start on understanding the amount of aid they might be qualified to receive. Families should use this information to help determine which colleges they may or may not be able to afford.

[5 Things To Consider When Discussing College Costs With Your Teen]

How Do I Use The FAFSA4caster?

Gather financial documents

You’ll need asset information for both the student and parents or guardians.

Asset information includes information on most cash and bank accounts. Common exclusions are retirement accounts, home equity in your primary residence, and the value of life insurance.

The value of family farms and small businesses with less than 100 employees are also excluded.

Input basic information

The FAFSAForecaster takes only five minutes to fill out. You will input asset information, dependent information, and tax information from the last tax return you filed.

Spend the time to fill out each question thoroughly as it will be good practice for when it’s time to fill out the real forms in your senior year.

Review Your Potential Federal Aid Eligibility

After you click submit, the FAFSA4caster will then take you to a page with your potential Federal Pell Grant eligibility amount, work study eligibility amount, and Direct Stafford loan eligibility amount.

Pell grants are federal grants based on need. The amount you receive can vary quite a bit by school because cost of attendance is a factor.

Work study is the maximum work study amount you can receive.

Work study money is given in exchange for hours worked on or off campus. The amount paid per hour starts at minimum wage.

The amount of student loans awarded is the maximum awarded to the student. Parent PLUS loans aren’t included in the estimate.

The FAFSA4caster doesn’t tell you about scholarships from the college, state grants or university grants.

It also doesn’t tell you your EFC, but it does essentially tell you how how your EFC affects you.

Can I Change The Amount Of Federal Aid I’m Eligible For?

First, remember the amount of federal financial aid awarded is based partly on a family’s adjusted gross income from tax returns filed two years prior.

Even after you file the FAFSA, you can file a special circumstances form if your family experienced an income drop or excessive medical expenses happens afterwards.

Second, play with the numbers.

By using the FAFSAforecaster, you can see how parent assets affect federal aid eligibility versus student assets.

You may be able to reduce student assets by shifting student savings into a 529 account for college savings or moving money to a parent’s account.

[Understand how FAFSA calculates expected family contribution.]

Quick tips for using the FAFSA4caster:

  • Gather your financial documents including tax information, bank information, and property information.
  • The FAFSA4caster is best for estimating federal grants, student loans, and work study estimates. You can use the College Board EFC calculator to help estimate your EFC.
  • Play with numbers in the calculators. You may be able to make changes to how your income and assets are interpreted by the government and colleges themselves.
  • Ask questions of your high school counselor if any information is confusing. You don’t want an error you make filling out the form next year to cost your student financial aid.






In this article:

Upcoming Events

Similar Articles for You

How Students Can Earn Employee Scholarships for College


How Students Can Earn Employee Scholarships for College

Find out how one student tapped into employee scholarships twice to help pay for college!

Paying for College with Credit Cards: What You Should Know


Paying for College with Credit Cards: What You Should Know

When the tuition bill comes due, your college will offer your student a few options. If there’s a balance after...

Your College Student May Need Help After Graduation. Are You Prepared?


Your College Student May Need Help After Graduation. Are You Prepared?

This story was first published in our Paying for College 101 Facebook community. It’s been edited for clarity and flow....

Become a Member

At Road2College you’ll find everything you need to make the admissions and paying for college process less stressful and more transparent.


Explore College Insights™ — your source for finding affordable colleges and merit scholarships.


Get coaching on admissions and college financing.


Join Road2College where parents and experts work together to inform and inspire college-bound families.