Applying for Federal Aid

The first step in applying for federal financial aid is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Don't be tricked into paying a company that advertises it will complete the form for you, for a fee. There's a reason "free" is part of the application's name. There should never be a charge to apply for aid.

If you need help filling out the form, please visit your Student Finance department. A Student Finance Professional will be able to help you.

You should fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 of the year you are applying for aid. If possible, complete your income taxes before you complete the FAFSA. If you are considered a dependent student, you must include your parent(s) information as well as your own in the application.

  1. Plan to complete the FAFSA online, as it reduces errors. Applying online also enables many applicants to utilize the IRS Data Retrieval function to import tax information directly from the IRS. If you are unable to apply online, the FAFSA is available in paper form or as a PDF.
  2. To submit the FAFSA online, you and your parent(s) need to apply for a Federal Student Aid PIN (PIN). The PIN allows you to sign the FAFSA electronically. And keep this PIN handy. It is the same one you will need to access the National Student Loan Database System (NSLDS).
    • If you complete the FAFSA online without a PIN, you'll need to sign and mail the signature pages.
    • If you complete a paper form, sign the completed form and mail it.
  3. Have the following items for yourself (and your parent(s) if you are dependent) on hand before you start to complete the FAFSA:
    • Income tax return
    • W-2 forms and other records of money earned
    • Records of untaxed income (such as unemployment benefits in some states)
    • Current bank statements
    • Business and farm records
    • Records of investments
    • Drivers' licenses and Social Security cards
    • Dates of birth
  4. Answer all questions even if you need to estimate. But don't just guess. If you have questions or are unsure about what to do, contact the Student Finance department for assistance.
  5. List the colleges you're considering attending. You may list up to 10 if you're filing the FAFSA online.
  6. Watch for your Student Aid Report (SAR) to arrive within three to five days if you applied online and supplied your email address or a few weeks after submitting a paper FAFSA. If you don't receive your SAR within two weeks after the date you submit your FAFSA, check the status of your application by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4 FED-AID.
  7. Review the financial aid award letter you receive from each college listed on your FAFSA. The colleges you list on the FAFSA automatically receive your results and use them to prepare your financial aid package. The award letter lists the financial aid you are eligible to receive at that college. You can accept it or turn it down.

For more information, you can go to:
If you filed a FAFSA last year and provided your e-mail address, you'll receive a renewal FAFSA notification in February from the U.S. Department of Education. When you file your FAFSA online the following year, the majority of your data will be pre-filled. All you'll need to do is make the necessary corrections and revisions before electronically signing and submitting.