Applying for Financial Aid
After discussing the options with your parents or guardian about how you plan to pay for college, you may determine that financial aid is the way to go. Here's how to submit your application.
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Before You Apply
Talk to your school counselor.
Your high school counselor can discuss college payment, and is a good resource throughout the financial-aid application process.
Read through the "FAFSA on the Web?" Worksheet.
This worksheet allows you to find answers to common questions about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and preview the FAFSA questions before entering your information online.
Compile your financial information.
Gather all financial information from the previous year, such as tax returns and W-2s. This includes your parents' or guardian's information.
The Application Process
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application.
The FAFSA should be completed as soon as possible after October 1 of the year before you plan to start school. You can mail in your FAFSA form or apply online.
Look for the confirmation known as the Student Aid Report (SAR).
Upon submitting the FAFSA, you will receive an SAR notifying you of your eligibility and reflecting all the information you included on your FAFSA. Your SAR should arrive within three days to three weeks after you submit your FAFSA form.
Thoroughly review your SAR.
Read all the instructions and make sure the data is correct. If something is wrong and needs to be corrected, make changes to your FAFSA form online.
Call if you do NOT receive confirmation.
You can check the status of your application on the FAFSA website, but if you have not received your SAR after five weeks, contact the U.S. Department of Education.
Look for verification forms from the colleges to which you applied.
The U.S. Department of Education sends your information to all schools listed on your FAFSA. Once the schools receive it, they will send financial-aid forms via email or postal mail to let you know what programs and awards you're eligible for from that college or university.
Call the schools you listed on your FAFSA if you do NOT receive verification forms.
If you don't hear from the schools you listed on your FAFSA within three weeks of receiving your SAR confirmation, call the schools' financial-aid departments.
Choosing Your Financial Aid Package
Compare the financial aid packages.
Does one school give you better financial aid than another? Is that the school of your choice? What does each package cover?
Pick the college you would like to attend.
Choose the school that meets your financial and academic needs as well as any other criteria you consider a priority.
Fill out the financial-aid verification forms of the school you'd like to attend.
Complete the form in its entirety. Accept all or part of the financial aid offered. Verification forms often come with specified deadlines, so pay close attention to when they are due.
Submit the completed financial-aid verification forms to the school of your choice.
Return the financial-aid form to its corresponding school as soon as possible and make sure to include any additional documents noted.
Paying for College
Understand all of your options for covering the various costs, from books to tuition.
Paying for Two-Year Colleges and Trade Schools
Get tips for selecting a school that is covered by financial assistance.