When you make the choice to apply for financial aid, which can include federal loans, work-study opportunities, and grants, the first step is to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is commonly known as the FAFSA form. It is important to understand the purpose of the FAFSA form in order to know how your financial aid will need to be paid back.
The purpose of using the FAFSA form to apply for financial aid is that the government, as well as many schools, use the information provided in the FAFSA to decide if you are even eligible for any types of financial aid and how much aid you are eligible to receive. More specifically, after submitting your FAFSA, you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) which will list your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Any schools that you choose to receive your financial aid information will also receive this report. These schools then use it to determine the type of aid for which you qualify. This can come in the form of federal loans, parent loans, scholarships, grants, etc.
The type of financial aid determines whether it needs to be paid back. Generally, grants, scholarships, and work-study funds will not need to be paid back unless for some reason you leave school and the funds have already been disbursed. In this case, you may be required to pay back funds, but that often depends upon the institution providing the funds. Student loans will need to be paid back. The specific terms will be outlined and explained in your promissory and during what is called entrance counseling. When you pay back your student loans will be dependent upon many factors, which can include how long you are in school, income, and life circumstances, among other things.
Ultimately, what is important to remember is that filling out a FAFSA does not guarantee financial aid nor is it financial aid. It is simply a form that determines your eligibility for financial aid. This aid can include many different types, including loans, grants, and scholarships. Ultimately the school you attend and the cost of that school will determine what you have to pay back.