How to Apply for Federal Financial Aid
There are a number of federal financial aid programs offered by the United States government to help students pay for their education. These programs include grants based on factors like financial need or fields of study, plus education loans made to students and/or their parents. There is even a new grant being offered to students whose parent(s) died while serving in the line of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Students can apply for federal financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA). While this can be done through the mail, the Internet has streamlined the process. For our purposes, here is how to apply for federal financial aid online.
- Go to http://studentaid.ed.gov and create a “MyFSA” account. This is a free process, and simplifies all your interactions with the government about your financial aid. This site also has all the pertinent information you need on types of financial aid and how to qualify for them, as well as other helpful tools.
- Gather the information you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA. This will include your Social Security Number, bank statements, income tax returns, and other documents. You can find a helpful worksheet at www.fafsa.gov.
- Apply for a PIN. This is your electronic signature, which you’ll need for filling out the FAFSA online. Links and instructions are at the FAFSA website.
- Fill out the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov. (NOTE: Make sure you use a “.gov” extension to get to the government page. Filling out the FAFSA is free, but there are “.com” websites out there that may try to charge you a fee. Always go directly to the government site.)
- The government will process your FAFSA and issue you a Student Aid Report (SAR), which will also be sent to any schools you listed on your FAFSA. This information will be used by your school’s financial aid department to coordinate your federal financial aid and eligibility for any other programs they might offer.
OTHER HELPFUL INFORMATION
- If you prefer to process your FAFSA through the mail, you can download and print a copy of the form through the student aid website.
- You can estimate your eligibility for federal financial aid before filling out the application by using a special tool, found at www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov.
- You can save your uncompleted FAFSA form and go back an edit it for up to 45 days online once you start filling it out.
- You can check the status of your FAFSA at any time after filling it out online.
- If you make a mistake on your FAFSA form, you can pull up your form and make corrections online, even after the form is submitted.
- The application deadline is generally June 30 for the upcoming school year, but be smart and fill it out early to determine your eligibility for federal financial aid.