Financial Aid for Students

Learn about getting help paying for school.

Federal Student Financial Aid and the FAFSA

What help is available?

You can find grants, loans, and work-study programs through Federal Student Aid (FSA) to help pay for college or career school.

Am I eligible?

Eligibility requirements for federal student aid include:

  • Financial need

  • Being a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen

  • Being in good standing on any federal student loans you may have

  • Being in or accepted for an eligible degree or certificate program

  • Maintaining adequate academic progress

Note: This is not a complete list. Review all eligibility requirements.

How do I apply?

  1. Know the deadlines for submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The federal deadline is June 30, 2018, for the 2017-2018 school year, and June 30, 2019, for the 2018–19 year. Many states and colleges use the FAFSA for their financial aid programs. Those deadlines vary.

  2. Create an FSA ID account if you’re going to submit your FAFSA online or track its status online. If you’re going to submit a paper FAFSA by mail and won’t be tracking its status, you won’t need an FSA ID.

  3. Complete and submit the FAFSA.

  4. Know what happens after you submit the FAFSA. This includes:

    1. Learning how to correct or update information on it.

    2. Finding out how and when you’ll get your aid.

How do I check the status of an application?

You can check the status of your FAFSA:

  • Right after submitting it online

  • Seven to ten days after mailing a paper FAFSA

You can check by:

How do I complain?

Who do I contact for extra help?

  • Visit the FSA Contact Us page for a detailed guide listing phone numbers and other ways to reach experts about federal student aid, FAFSA, loans and loan consolidation, and more.  

Is there anything else I need to know?

Understand the tax benefits available for higher education.

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Video: After FAFSA

This video explains what happens after submitting the FAFSA application and getting your Student Aid Report (SAR).

0:00 So you've filled out the FAFSA. Now what?

0:03 The information you submitted will be processed by the

0:06 U.S. Department of Education's office of Federal Student Aid,

0:10 and the colleges or career schools you listed will be notified

0:13 so they can begin their process of awarding aid.

0:16 The great thing about filling out the FAFSA online

0:19 is that you can check its processing status immediately.

0:22 This comes in handy when you're thinking, "I wonder if it went through."

0:25 Within a few days of filling out the FAFSA,

0:28 you'll get your Student Aid Report (or SAR).

0:31 You'll hear that abbreviation again, so just remember,

0:34 your SAR is your Student Aid Report.

0:36 Basically, it summarizes all of the information you submitted on the FAFSA.

0:41 You can access your SAR online at FAFSA.gov

0:46 using your FSA ID (which is your user name and password).

0:50 Check your SAR for any mistakes.

0:52 Then make corrections if you need to,

0:54 but only if you estimated your tax information or provided incorrect information

0:59 the day you filled out the FAFSA.

1:00 On your SAR, you'll see reference to your EFC

1:04 or Expected Family Contribution.

1:06 This number is used to determine your eligibility

1:08 for federal student aid;

1:10 it doesn't mean you actually have to contribute that amount.

1:12 The financial aid office at each college or career school

1:15 you list on your FAFSA will receive your information.

1:19 Each office will then use your FAFSA information

1:21 to determine how much aid you can get at that school.

1:24 It's possible that your college or career school

1:27 may require you to verify the information you submitted on your FAFSA.

1:31 If that happens, your school will tell you what you need to do.

1:34 Once you're accepted into a college or career school,

1:37 you'll get an award letter from the school's financial aid office

1:40 that explains the aid being offered to you.

1:43 We'd recommend comparing award letters from multiple schools.

1:46 That way you can make the best decision for your situation.

1:50 If you have any questions about your financial aid offer,

1:53 contact the school's financial aid office.

1:57 If your aid offer includes a federal loan

1:59 and you're a first-time borrower, there are a few more

2:02 steps before you get your loan.

2:04 You'll need to complete entrance counseling

2:06 and sign the Master Promissory Note (or MPN),

2:09 which is your agreement to pay back the loan.

2:12 Your school will provide you with the necessary information.

2:15 So, how do you get your money?

2:17 Well, usually, your grants and loans will be applied to

2:20 tuition, fees and other charges on your student account first.

2:24 Then any leftover money is paid to you.

2:27 Work-study funds are earned throughout the term.

2:30 Remember, filling out the FAFSA is not a one-time thing;

2:33 you must complete it every year you attend school.

2:37 If you have questions or need more information,

2:39 please visit StudentAid.gov.

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Get a Student Loan

Types of Student Loans

When you are exploring ways to pay for college, career, or technical schools, you may consider taking out a student loan—money you borrow to help you cover your education expenses and that you must pay back with interest.   

Student loans originate from the federal government (called “federal student loans”) or from private sources, such as a bank, credit union, state agency, or school. Learn the differences between federal and private loans before considering a loan.

Federal Student Loans

If you need to borrow money to pay for college or career school, start with the more affordable federal student loan:

Types of Federal Student Loan Programs - The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program offers four types of Direct Loans:    

  • Direct Subsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate students based on financial need.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, and are not based on financial need.
  • Direct PLUS Loans are made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students.
  • Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.

The Federal Perkins Loan Program is administered through the schools, and awarded to undergraduates and graduate students with exceptional financial need. If you are eligible, you should take this loan first.

Eligibility - You must be enrolled at a school that participates in the school loan program, and meet the general eligibility requirements.

How to apply -Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Watch this video to learn more about what happens after submitting your FAFSA.

Private Student Loans

Before taking a private loan, make sure you need it. These loans generally are not as affordable as federal student loans, and offer little repayment flexibility. Read these tips before getting a  private loan.

Learn more about student loans, and how to identify deceptive private loan practices.

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Video: Types of Federal Student Aid

Check out this video to learn more about grants, loans, and work-study jobs.

0:00 If you need help paying for college or career school,

0:03 the office of Federal Student Aid might be your best option.

0:07 We offer more than $150 billion to students each year

0:11 in the form of grants, loans, and work-study funds.

0:14 And federal student aid can be used to pay for school expenses

0:18 such as tuition, room and board, and books and supplies.

0:22 After you've filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA,

0:26 you'll receive an award letter from each school you list on your FAFSA.

0:30 This letter explains both the federal and non-federal

0:32 financial aid options that a school is offering you.

0:35 So let's talk about federal aid.

0:37 If you qualify for and receive a federal grant, you won't have to repay the money.

0:41 That will definitely help offset the cost of school, but you may still need additional help.

0:47 If so, a federal student loan might be your answer.

0:50 Remember, a student loan is just like any other loan;

0:53 it's borrowed money that will have to be repaid with interest.

0:56 If you plan to take out a loan, consider federal student loans first.

1:01 Compared to private student loans, federal student loans often have lower fixed interest rates

1:05 and offer many benefits that you won't find otherwise.

1:09 For example, when it's time for you to repay your federal student loan,

1:12 your loan servicer can work with you to find the best repayment plan for your individual needs.

1:18 Plus, you may be able to adjust your loan payments based on your income.

1:22 You also may be able to defer your federal loan payments, deduct student loan interest on your taxes,

1:28 and even consolidate your eligible federal student loans into one loan with one monthly payment.

1:34 Federal loans can even be forgiven based on certain types of employment.

1:39 Getting a work-study job is another great option to help pay for school.

1:42 Eligible undergraduate and graduate students will be able to earn at least minimum wage.

1:47 If you have questions or need any assistance, you can contact the financial aid office at your

1:52 college or career school or visit studentaid.gov for more information.

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Last Updated: August 30, 2017

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