Pay for College
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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 January 1 of your senior year in high school and every following January throughout your college career. Complete and submit the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online or the FAFSA in paper form.
- 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. You might have reported estimated tax information, which needs to be corrected. If this is the case, 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 electronically to the schools you chose to receive your FAFSA data.
- A school that receives 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 school 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 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.