Paying for College

Financial Aid Process

If you need financial aid to pay for school, the steps outlined below may be helpful.

  • Complete the FAFSA, which must be filed to apply for several major federal and state student aid programs. Applying online at www.fafsa.ed.gov is the best way to file a FAFSA. A paper FAFSA is available by calling the U.S. Department of Education toll free at 1.800.433.3243. Students may get up to three copies of the paper FAFSA.

  • Read and follow the FAFSA instructions carefully. If you file a paper FAFSA and want to be notified when your application is received, write your home address on the postcard in the FAFSA packet, put postage on it and enclose the postcard with your application.

  • Complete and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible to ensure you have the best chance of receiving aid for which you're eligible. You will need the same information as you and your spouse will use to file federal tax forms.

  • If you're going to college in the fall, you can file the FAFSA beginning October 1. If you're going to start college before July 1, file this year's FAFSA as soon as possible.

  • Check each school's catalog or website for descriptions of any school–based scholarships or financial aid for which you may be eligible.

  • Pay close attention to mailing addresses and filing deadlines.

  • Comply with requests from schools for additional information as soon as possible.

  • Keep copies of everything you mail and a record of the dates you mail the materials.

If the FAFSA is properly completed, the financial aid information you provide on the form will be sent to all of the schools you listed. The financial aid office will use this information to determine whether you're eligible for financial aid and, if so, how much and what type. The financial aid office will create a financial aid package for you. Each college you list on the FAFSA will consider you for financial aid and will notify you if you are awarded aid.

Verification

Colleges are required to verify the information provided on a certain percentage of all FAFSAs. Most people selected for verification are picked at random, but your chances of having to verify your information increases if you estimate figures so you can submit your FAFSA early.

However, if you wait until you have all of your tax information and until your taxes are done before you submit your FAFSA, you may miss out on awards from financial aid programs with limited funding.

If you're selected for verification, you'll be contacted by the college. The college or, in some cases, an agency with which the college has contracted, will let you know what forms and information you need to supply.