Financial Aid Application Process

Many students choose not to apply for financial aid because they feel overwhelmed by the process or assume they will not qualify. Applying for financial aid does not need to be a challenge. See our tips below for what to expect.

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

  • You can apply for federal aid by completing the FAFSA. You can complete the FAFSA online or by paper. It is free to apply, and it allows you to access a variety of financial aid resources, including loans, grants and federal work-study. The FAFSA is also used to determine your eligibility for aid from a school or a state.
  • Even if you think you might not qualify for aid, you should still complete the FAFSA to confirm your eligibility. You should complete the FAFSA each year to check your eligibility, as your financial situation may change from one year to the next.
  • You can use the FAFSA4caster tool to estimate your federal aid eligibility.
  • It is important to be mindful of deadlines. You will need to complete the FAFSA between January 1st – June 30th for the upcoming academic year in September. Some programs are first come, first served, so apply early if you can.
  • After completing the FAFSA, you may be notified that you have been selected for verification. Don’t worry; this may happen if a school needs to verify that the information reported on your FAFSA is accurate. You may need to provide additional documentation to the school.

Next Step: Reviewing your Student Aid Report (SAR)

  • About a month after completing your FAFSA, you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) in the mail. You can also review your SAR online. The SAR will provide you with information about your eligibility for federal student aid, including your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
  • Your EFC is a figure reflecting what a family is expected to spend on the student’s college education. The Department of Education uses the information within your FAFSA to calculate this figure.
  • Review your SAR, and if you need to submit any corrections, you can do so.

Aid Award Letter

  • The award letter will list the financial aid for which you qualify, including any grants, scholarships, loans, or work-study.
  • You will get an award letter from all of the schools at which you were accepted. You should compare the different award letters before making a decision about where to attend college.
  • You can appeal your award letter if your financial situation has changed and is no longer accurately reflected in the information you submitted on your FAFSA.

Accepting Financial Aid Reward

  • After choosing a school to attend, you will need to follow the school’s specific instructions to accept the award. You can find these instructions on the school’s award letter.
  • You do NOT need to accept the full award. You can turn down a loan or request a lower amount if you do not anticipate needing the full amount.

Recent News

More than 90% of student debt today is in the form of federal loans. If you graduated from college recently and have a federal loan, you may have the option to temporarily postpone your payments, extend them, or lower them. The challenge is figuring out which of the eight major federal repayment plans is best for your situation.
The Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates for the first time since 2006 likely won’t affect most student loan borrowers—not this year, at least.
Some of you may be familiar with the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Repayment Plan, which caps payments at 10% of a borrower’s monthly income and forgives any remaining balance on your student loans after 20 years of qualifying repayment. But this plan is only for recent borrowers. REPAYE solves this problem. Like the name implies, REPAYE has some similarities to PAYE. First and foremost, REPAYE, like PAYE, sets payments at no more than 10% of income. However, REPAYE—unlike PAYE— is available to Direct Loan borrowers regardless of when they took out their loans.
Federal lawmakers are looking to repeal a provision in the recently passed U.S. budget that allows the government to robocall and text cellphones to collect debts, including student loans.
Student loans are coming due for borrowers who graduated or left school in May. But choosing the best repayment plan while avoiding misinformation and student loan scams isn't always easy.
As part of the Obama Administration's commitment to helping students and borrowers, the Department of Education is announcing the publication of two regulatory packages that will protect students in the rapidly-expanding college debit and prepaid card marketplace and add a new income-based repayment plan so more borrowers can limit the amount of their payments to 10 percent of their income.
Repayment on the most common student loans (federal Stafford loans) starts six months after the borrower graduates. So, if like most new college grads, you donned a cap and gown in May of this year, it’s about time to pay up. Paying off student loan debt can be intimidating, but there are many things you can do to reduce the stress of the situation.
The changes, which will be implemented over the course of 2016, will significantly affect the process of filing for federal financial aid and, for some families, the amount of aid they'll receive. For families of current and prospective college students, here are the changes to be aware of – and how to manage them.
In a report that came out this September, the CFPB examined student loan servicing practices and came up with a set of guidelines for how to fix problems in this business. The CFPB and Department of Education have also issued “joint principles” on how to clean up loan servicing, although they fall short of being stringent regulations or actual laws. In the interim, here is what you need to know when dealing with your own student loan servicer.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) helps determine a student’s eligibility for aid by asking for information on the income and assets of the student and his or her parents for the previous year. Since the FAFSA can be completed as early as January 1, and because many schools want the form filed early in the year, families commonly fill out the form with estimates of their previous year’s income and then adjust the figures later after completing their tax returns. This has sometimes created problems that affected students’ financial aid packages. To simplify and streamline the process, the Obama administration recently changed the application guidelines in a way that will affect college planning for most families.