How do I: Apply for financial aid?

Topic: College Finance
Who is affected: Starting out, Parenthood, Life Crisis
What you'll need: Tax returns, bank statements, mortgage information

What you need to know

Lower interest rates and flexible repayment policies make government-sponsored loans a smart alternative to private borrowing.

Your first step to financial aid should be to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form. The form must be completed for a student to be eligible for federal and state loans.

The FAFSA can be filled out online and requires information about your income, taxes and assets. Be sure to have your tax returns, bank statements and mortgage information at hand when you sit down to tackle it. Timeliness is a factor as well -- the sooner you file, the better.

Afterward, you'll be issued a student aid report, or SAR, with information about your family's finances and your expected family contribution, or EFC, to your child's education. Then, it's time to think about financial aid in conjunction with scholarships and work-study programs -- many students use a combination of all three to pay for school.

Financial aid timeline:

  • January to February: Fill out FAFSA
  • March to April: College and universities send acceptance letters
  • Mid-March to mid-April: College and universities send financial aid letters
  • May 1: Rough deadline for students to select a school
Then considering student finances, having a plan and creating a budget are crucial paths to fiscal stability. Our college financing calculators will help you keep a clear head.



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