Your Federal Financial Aid Application
Once you've found the education program you want to enroll in, how do you pay for it?
The FAFSA: Free Federal Money for College
Start with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The U.S. federal government is the largest single provider of college financial aid. During the 2007-2008 academic year, the feds awarded approximately $100 billion in financial aid to nearly 10 million students enrolled in degree, voc/tech, and continuing education programs.
Before You Fill Out Your Financial Aid Application
- Learn about federal financial aid eligibility requirements. See Federal Financial Aid: Who Is Eligible? for details.
- Get accreditation and licensing information from the school you wish to apply to.
- Find out your school's loan default rate. You might not qualify for some types of aid if the school you want to attend has a high default rate.
- Look up the school's financial aid office: location, hours and advisory process.
- Research the financial aid assistance available, including federal, state, local, private and institutional financial aid programs
- Review the procedures and deadlines for submitting the financial aid application for each available financial aid program.
- Find out the school's criteria for selecting financial aid recipients. Your financial need, the type of assistance, and amount of financial aid you are eligible for are determined by the school's criteria.
- Make sure you understand the school's criteria for determining whether you're making satisfactory academic progress, and what happens if you're not. (Whether you continue to receive federal financial aid depends, in part, on whether you make satisfactory academic progress.)
Filling Out Your Financial Aid Application
1) Get a PIN. A PIN is your FAFSA Personal Identification Number. With a PIN, you and your parents can fill out your federal financial aid application forms online quickly and conveniently. Apply for your PIN online at www.pin.ed.gov. Keep in mind these two things:
- You may need 2 PINs. You'll need a PIN and your parents will need a PIN, too, if they can claim you as a dependent on their taxes.
- It takes 2-5 days to get your PIN(s). Apply for your PIN well before you fill out a FAFSA. To avoid last-minute stress, apply for your PIN(s) right after January 1st.
- Doublecheck your work to make sure you don't leave anything out of your federal financial aid application form.
2) Carefully review your Student Aid Report (SAR) when you receive it. Some time after you successfully complete your financial aid application, your SAR will be mailed to you. Your SAR will list your Expected Family Contribution and confirm the info you provided on your FAFSA. The schools you selected in the FAFSA will use your SAR to determine what federal - and possibly non-federal - financial aid you qualify for.
"Funding Education Beyond High School," Guide to Federal Student Aid, 2007-2008, U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid (http://studentaid.ed.gov/)
Research by Carlos Soto, CourseAdvisor Content Editor.