The key to receiving most financial aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- After applying for admission to the institution of your choice, file the FAFSA as soon as possible. For students applying for the 2017-18 academic year, the filing period begins October 1, 2016. In addition, students will be able to use tax information from the prior year (2015).
- Don't wait to find out where you've been accepted to apply for financial aid. Schools may have different deadlines for admission and financial aid. Be sure to contact your college financial aid office for forms and deadlines.
- The Expected Family Contribution (EFC): This is the amount your family may be expected to pay toward college, as determined by the FAFSA. No matter what school you attend, your EFC remains the same. Your EFC helps determine the amount of financial aid needed.
- Four to six weeks after filing your FAFSA, you (and each school you designate on the form) will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). Colleges that accept you for admission will use this report to create your financial aid award package.
- Every college you have been accepted to will send you a Financial Aid Award Letter to illustrate the financial aid award package the school is providing you (sometimes these letters are sent electronically to a new email address the college sets up for you after you have been admitted).
- Financial aid award letters will vary based on the school. Each institution (be it private nonprofit, technical, or a state school) awards their financial aid differently.
- The FAFSA is the one form every student applying for financial aid must file with the federal government.