Overview of the Financial Aid Process
How do I apply for financial aid?
- You should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
(FAFSA) as soon as possible after October 1 of your senior year
in high school. By completing this application you have applied for
funds awarded by most federal and state agencies.
- Applications are processed and results are sent to the colleges
you listed on the FAFSA.
- Your Student Aid Report (SAR) will be provided to
you to confirm data (two to three weeks after submitting your
application). If you file your FAFSA electronically, processing can
take seven days.
- Your school will then provide you with an
award letter outlining types of aid for which you are eligible.
Further instructions will be included in the letter. Use this worksheet to compare awards.
- If the financial aid office has determined that you will need a
loan, contact the financial aid administrator regarding the
procedures to apply for federal loans.
NOTE: For loans made after July 1, 2010 colleges participate only
in the Federal Direct Loan Program. In this case, there is no choice of a lender.
Follow the college's instructions to get the loan. Check with your
college's financial aid office to see if supplemental applications
are required. Also investigate private aid sources such as
religious organizations, civic organizations and corporations.
- Apply for other scholarships and grants for which you may be
eligible outside of the college or university. For more
information, talk with your high school counselor.
When her daughter was applying to colleges, Mary Crippen says
that the financial aid offices provided excellent materials and
online instructions about the aid process.
"I was able to complete the entire process online using the
instructions without assistance from the financial aid office or
paid outside consultants," Crippen says. "It did take some time to
read through the instructions and go through the steps, though. The
first hurdle was to finalize our taxes by the first week in
February, because that information was necessary to complete the
FAFSA and financial aid forms, so I remember that week being pretty
stressful. Once you have your tax information, though, [it's]
Crippen recommends keeping the family financial records
organized for easy tax preparation. She also says it's important to
keep track of deadlines for certain parts of the process.
While having taxes completed makes the process easier, it is
important to note that families can estimate their income if it
isn't possible to file tax returns prior to a FAFSA deadline. The
FAFSA can be updated with information from a completed tax return
at a later date.