Understand the Aid Application Process

Apply for money that is available to help cover college expenses.


Now that you've determined you want to go to college, you need to figure out how to pay for it. We've already told you about all the money that is available for your benefit — but how do you get it?

First steps you need to take to get financial aid

By completing and submitting a FAFSA, you supply the information that financial aid offices and programs use to determine your need for financial aid. FAFSAs are available online or in paper form, in both English and Spanish versions.

Seniors, after your completed FAFSA is processed, you'll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that summarizes the information you supplied on the FAFSA. The information from your FAFSA will be sent to the schools you listed on the form, and the schools will send you an award letter identifying any aid for which you qualify.

For more information about the FAFSA, visit AIE's FAFSA Info Center.

10 things you should do when applying for financial aid

  1. Ask for all of the application materials needed to apply for financial aid. Find out if the college has its own form to submit, in addition to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  2. Find out the deadlines for sending in your forms, and make a note of the dates on your calendar.
  3. Determine whether any aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
  4. Ask an admissions or financial aid counselor when you can expect to be notified of the college's financial aid offer. Put the date down on your calendar.
  5. Find out whether your demonstrated financial need will have any impact on the college's decision to admit you.
  6. Request an overview of the college's entire financial aid program, including how to qualify for need-based aid, merit-based scholarships and talent-based scholarships.
  7. Ask whether the college will reduce your financial aid award if you receive outside (private) scholarships.
  8. Find out if your college of choice will meet all of your demonstrated financial need, and if so, for how many years.
  9. Request an overview of all state financial aid programs that may be available to you.
  10. Ask about payment options. Many colleges offer tuition payment plans that let you make installment payments for each semester's bill.

See also


Here are other documents located on AIE.org that you may be interested in: