The Road to Student Financial Aid

A list of steps to help you get the college funding you deserve.

The road to financial aid can be a long and arduous one if you are not properly prepared.  If you do your homework and take the time to understand the process, you will be able to apply quicker and receive all of the aid that is available to you.  Here is a list of steps to take in order to effectively receive your financial aid.

Step 1: Complete the FAFSA The road to financial aid starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or FAFSA).

The information you provide on this form will be used to determine how much aid—and what types of aid—you’ll be offered at each of the schools you’re considering.  Some types of financial aid—like grants and scholarships—are made available on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s important that you submit your FAFSA as early as possible after January 1. You won’t be able to receive any amount of federal aid (including loans) until
your FAFSA has been processed.

If you would like to get a jump start on the FAFSA process, try the FAFSA4caster offered by the U.S. Department of Education. This free online tool will help you to explore your financial aid options.

Step 2: Review Your Student Aid Report (SAR)
Four to six weeks after you submit your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) in the mail. This report details your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount your family will be asked to contribute toward your education.

The schools you specified on your FAFSA will also receive a copy of your SAR so that they can customize a financial aid package for you. These financial aid packages may include offers of grants, scholarships, Federal Work-Study, and/or loans.

It’s important that you review your SAR carefully to ensure that everything is correct and matches the information you provided on your FAFSA.

Step 3: Compare Financial Aid Packages
Each of the schools you listed on your FAFSA will send you an award letter if you have been accepted to enroll. These award letters will outline the total cost of attendance at each school, your Expected Family Contribution, and a financial aid package.

Look closely at the types of financial aid you are being offered at each school. The aid package will usually contain a combination of aid that doesn’t have to be repaid (such as grants, scholarships, and work-study) and aid that must be repaid (loans).

It’s your choice whether you accept all, some, or none of the aid being offered. To accept a specific financial aid offer, complete, sign, and return the forms that come with the award letter.  Also, pay careful attention to the individual deadlines listed on each award letter. Missing a deadline can mean losing all of the aid being offered.

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