Financial Aid Process

Paying for college doesn't have to be financially overwhelming. There are many different ways for a family to pay for a college education and the financial aid process isn't as complicated as many people think. Read below to learn more about the financial aid process.

How to Apply

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a standardized federal form used to determine a student's financial need. It is the application for most federal and state financial aid programs, and colleges may also use this information to determine eligibility for institutional scholarship and grant programs.


  • File online – is the fastest, easiest and most accurate way to file the FAFSA.
  • File early – The FAFSA is available October 1 each year. Students should submit their FAFSA as soon after October 1 as possible to ensure they have met any college or state filing deadlines.
  • Create an FSA ID – By requesting a Federal Student Aid ID from, students and parents can sign the FAFSA electronically, and access U.S. Department of Education records online.
  • Be accurate – Simple mistakes, like entering a Social Security number incorrectly, can slow down a student's FAFSA filing and financial aid award process.
  • Keep records – Students should make copies of all materials used to complete the FAFSA and keep them handy in case they are asked to submit these documents to the financial aid office for verification of their FAFSA data.
  • Don't pay for assistance – The FAFSA is a free application and students shouldn't be asked to pay anyone for filing assistance.

Financial Aid Award Letter

Upon receiving the FAFSA data for an admitted student, a college will generate a financial aid package for the student and communicate that information to the student through an award letter. The award letter typically includes information regarding the college's cost of attendance, in addition to the types and amounts of financial aid being offered to the student. Most award letters will include federal grants and student loans, state grant and scholarship programs and any institutional scholarship or grant programs being offered to the student. Compare award letters from different schools with the Award Comparison Tool offered by the U.S. Department of Education.

Looking for Existing Student Loans?

The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the U.S. Department of Education's (EDs) central database for student aid. NSLDS receives data from schools, guaranty agencies, the Federal Direct Loan Program, and other ED programs. NSLDS Student Access provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and grants so that recipients of Title IV Aid can access and inquire about their Title IV loans and/or grant data.