If it's your first time applying for financial aid, you may be feeling overwhelmed. Relax. The process boils down to answering questions for which you already know the answers. Plus, in most cases, you're only going to need to file one or two applications, then respond to any requests for follow up information you receive from the financial aid office.
The most important form you need to file is the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid has seen major improvements since the time your parents went to school.
One of the biggest changes is that the FAFSA can automatically import your family's income tax information from the IRS.
FAQs on How to Apply For Financial Aid
How do I apply for federal student aid?
File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA will determine your eligibility for all federal financial aid programs, including federal student loans. Your school’s financial aid office will use the information received from your FAFSA to calculate your eligibility.
Is there a fee to file the FAFSA?
No. If you file the FAFSA using the Department of Education's online application you will not be charged a fee. There are paid FAFSA filing services, but most families will have little difficulty completing the form without assistance.
If you do need help, you can always ask your tax preparer or a financial aid administrator at your college.
Are there other application I will need to file?
It depends. Some schools use the CSS/Profile and they will let you know in their admissions materials if this form is required. The Profile asks more questions than the FAFSA. Some schools use it for early decision and others use it to get a more precise understanding of your financial circumstances.
In addition to the Profile, your school may ask you to provide supplemental information. They will always contact you.
Therefore, be sure to read everything (and respond promptly) to requests for information from the financial aid office. Finally, most states use the information you supply on the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for state-based financial aid. However, it's always best to check to see if your state has an application of its own.
Do I have to file an application other than the FAFSA in order to receive federal student loans?
No. The FAFSA is your application for federal student loans including Direct Student Loans and the Perkins Loan. In order to receive your federal student loans, you will need to sign a Master Promissory Note for Direct Student Loans and, if applicable, a Federal Perkins Master Promissory Note. Promissory notes are exactly what they sound like, your signed promise to repay your loans.
How will I know if I'm eligible for financial aid?
You will receive notice of your eligibility in the form of financial aid award letters from the schools where you were accepted for admission and provided access to your FAFSA information when you applied online.
Your financial aid award letter will list the amounts and types of financial aid the school is able to offer you based on your eligiblity.