Guide your students through applying to college, obtaining aid, and considering a career.
Explore the Financial Aid Process
Learn how the financial aid process works
Obtaining federal financial aid can seem a little complicated. Here's an overview that describes key points in the process.
- Apply as early as possible after October 1 of your senior year in high school and every following October throughout your college career. Complete and submit the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- The Department of Education will analyze the information from your FAFSA, calculate your expected family contribution (EFC), and send you a Student Aid Report (SAR), which contains your EFC and summarizes your FAFSA information.
- Review the SAR for accuracy. If needed, correct and return the SAR.
- If corrections are made, the Department of Education will recalculate your EFC and send a corrected SAR. You should again review information on the SAR for accuracy. Keep a copy for your records.
- The Department of Education will send FAFSA information to the schools you chose to receive your FAFSA data.
- A schools that receive your FAFSA information will use it to determine your financial need and put together a package of financial aid to help you meet that need. The schools may request additional documents to complete your financial aid application process.* The documents required by each school differ somewhat depending on the types of aid and whether the student has been selected for verification.
What's verification? The Department of Education and some schools select FAFSAs to verify for accuracy. If your FAFSA has been selected for verification, provide requested documents as soon as you can so that you don't lose out on possible aid.
- Your school will send you a financial aid award letter itemizing your aid offer.
- You can accept all, some, or none of the award depending on your preference.
*Some states and schools have applications, in addition to the FAFSA, in order gather supplemental information for determining a student's eligibility for state and/or institutional aid. Work with your financial aid office to provide the supplemental applications as needed.