Financial aid is an important component of paying for higher education. Whether you have financial need or not, there are many financial aid options to explore. So, when should you start? That's good question. There isn't a clear cut answer because it's different for everyone.
However, one part of the process holds true for everyone. If you want to be considered for federal financial aid, you must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as soon after January 1st of the year in which you will begin your studies.
If you are just beginning to look into ways to pay for college, use our financial aid flowchart as a starting point. This guide was created specifically to help students and families tackle that “Where should I start?” question. As you interact with the flowchart and answer basic questions, it will steer you towards the funding path that is most aligned with your unique situation.
Depending on your response, you’ll be guided to a new financial aid option to explore. These options are presented in the order in which you should pursue each source of financial aid.
Remember, it’s crucial to get this process right in order to avoid running into financial consequences such as borrowing more than you actually need.
Financial Aid Guides
Educate yourself by studying the in-depth resources and guides below. Spend extra time researching alternatives and reviewing every possible option. With careful attention to detail, you can fund your college degree in a way that will help save you money.
Financial Aid Basics
Before applying for financial aid, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the different types of financial aid available to students and the eligibility requirements for each.
- Types of Financial Aid This section covers the types of financial aid and their sources.
- Financial Aid Eligibility How financial aid eligibility is determined.
- Applying for Financial Aid Frequently asked questions about applying for financial aid.
- Financial Aid Interactive Flowchart Interactive guide helps students and families explore every possible option for paying for school.
Financial Aid for Students by Type
The financial aid process looks slightly different for each student. However, there are some steps in the process that are the same for everyone, such as filing the FAFSA. See below for financial aid guides we’ve compiled for high school students, college students, grad students, adult learners, and international students. Each guide covers eligibility, types of financial aid, and extra tips and pointers to getting through the process successfully.
- Financial Aid for High School Students A guide for high school students seeking college financial aid.
- Financial Aid for College Students A guide for college freshman, sophomors, juniors and seniors seeking financial aid.
- Financial Aid for Graduate Students A guide for grad students seeking financial aid.
- Financial Aid for Adult Learners A guide for adult students who are going back to school that are seeking financial aid.
- Financial Aid for International Students A guide for eligible non-citizens and international students seeking financial aid to study in the U.S.
- Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) How to apply for federal, state and other financial aid using the FAFSA, when to apply, form requirements, and more.
- FAFSA: Parent and Student Assets What you should and should not include when reporting your family's assets on the FAFSA.