Complete a FAFSA (Step 1 of 5)

The first step in the Financial Aid Process is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can get the FAFSA from your guidance counselor, through your prospective college's Financial Aid Office, or even fill out a FAFSA online . It's best to send in the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Your schools may have additional aid forms for you to complete-be sure to ask!

Once you've sent in your FAFSA, the Department of Education will use the information you provide to determine your "need." Your need is essentially the difference between what your school will cost (cost of attendance or COA) and what your family can afford to pay - also called the expected family contribution (EFC) They will generate a Student Aid Report (SAR), which you'll receive about three to six weeks after you've submitted the FASFA. Check it carefully for any errors, then return it to your school's financial aid office (if you've been instructed to do so).

FAFSA application acceptance

The schools who accept you will create a financial aid award package for you, and send it to you by mail. When you receive it, call your selected school's Financial Aid Office and discuss your package. This will ensure a smooth application process. NOTE: Each school may have different application and financial aid processes, so check with your school for complete instructions!