How to Apply for Federal Student Aid

In today’s challenging job market, a college degree is more important than ever. Despite increasing tuition costs, a college education is still the key to greater economic freedom and financial success. However, many students need some type of financial assistance or student aid to attend college. Federal student aid is available and can help you pay for educational expenses such as tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. The U.S. Department of Education provides more than $67 billion in loans, grants and work study programs every year to assist millions of students and their families with paying for post-secondary education. Many students qualify for both grants and loans based on financial need. Here’s a brief overview of how to apply for federal student aid.


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    Access the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA). Students must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for federal student aid. The FASFA can be completed online or on paper. The FAFSA Web site takes you through every step of the process and provides all the information you need to apply for federal student aid. Applicants can access worksheets to estimate their incomes, electronically sign loan documents, save an application at any computer and print a complete report.
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    Get Your Federal Student Aid Pin Number. To electronically apply for federal student aid, you need to get a personal identification number called a Federal Student Aid PIN at Your PIN lets you "sign" your online FAFSA, access and make corrections to your application information. Be sure to keep your PIN in a safe place. You should never give your PIN to anyone, including commercial services that offer to help you complete your FAFSA.
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    Determine Your Dependency Status. If you are a dependent, you must include that information on the FAFSA to get federal student aid. Whether you are a dependent or independent student will have an impact on the financial aid you are qualified for. You need to collect information from your parents if you are their dependent. Both you and your parents must send in copies of your tax returns in time to meet deadlines set by the school you are attending. You must include information pertaining to how much total income you earned in the previous year. Your parents must also disclose their total income for the previous year.
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    Contact the University’s Financial Aid Office. You need to contact the university’s Financial Aid Office to get the correct FAFSA code to include on the FAFSA form. Some schools have several FAFSA codes. The particular code you should include on your FAFSA form will depend on the program you are applying to at the university.
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    Review Your Student Aid Report. After submitting the financial aid form, you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) that includes all of the information you filled out on the FAFSA form. Review the report carefully. If necessary, make corrections and submit your SAR for reprocessing as soon as possible. Keep in mind that working your way through the application process for federal student aid can take a considerable amount of time. It is strongly recommended that you fill out the FAFSA as early as possible after January 1 each year to be considered for maximum financial assistance. The speed of processing depends on your responsiveness and the accuracy of information provided, so be sure to proofread your FAFSA application.


  • Gather all your financial information and records beforehand.
  • Apply early, make sure you know the federal student aid deadlines and apply ASAP.


  • Watch out for student aid scams.
  • Only deal with trusted and official websites.
  • Never pay a fee to apply for federal student aid.

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Categories: Budgeting and Financial Aid for College