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How to Apply for State Financial Aid

 

When trying to fund your education with financial aid programs, the federal government is not the only resource available; many states also offer various forms of financial aid. The state where your prospective school is located may offer a variety of programs, especially if you are also a resident of the state.  Every state is different, with different programs and rules, but here is a general framework for applying for state financial aid.

 

STEP ONE: Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA, of course, is your application for federal financial aid, not for state aid.  However, many states go by the FAFSA to determine your eligibility, and some even defer to the federal government first.  In other words, some states won’t even consider you eligible for their programs unless you’ve applied first to the federal government.  So go ahead and fill out the FAFSA; it’s free, and you can do it online at www.fafsa.gov.

 

STEP TWO: Find out your state’s procedures and requirements.

The procedure for applying for state financial aid will be different for each state, so go to the department of education website of the state where you live and/or where your school is located, to find out how they want you to apply for the assistance.  Some states coordinate directly with the financial aid department of the school, which makes things pretty easy for you; you simply work with your school’s financial aid office and provide them with your Student Aid Report (the results of your FAFSA), and they’ll work out the details of what state aid is available for you.  Other times, the state wants you to fill out a separate application.  The best policy is to educate yourself beforehand, to be certain you’re eligible for all financial aid that’s available for you.

 

STEP THREE:  Fill out any applications your state requires of you.

If you determine you might be eligible for financial aid from your state, make sure that if there are any additional applications your state requires, you fill them out and get them in before the deadlines.

 

STEP FOUR: Follow up.

Financial aid is a complex process, especially when you’re dealing with aid at both the federal and state levels, and especially when you’re working with a financial aid office.  Don’t ever take for granted that everyone is doing their job on your behalf; follow up on your application process.  Make sure that your forms are sent in on time, that the financial aid department has processed everything correctly for you, that you’ve dotted every “i” and crossed every “t”.  In this way, you’ll ensure that if you’re eligible for state financial aid, you won’t miss out because you or someone else dropped the ball.

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