3 Steps to Getting Financial Aid
To be considered for financial aid — money given or loaned to you to help you pay for college — you have to apply. Applying for financial aid is like applying for admission to college, but they’re not the same thing. The financial aid application process usually has its own forms, deadlines and requirements — and you don’t have to wait to be admitted to a college before you apply for financial aid.
Financial aid comes in the form of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study jobs. There are three basic sources of aid:
- Federal and state governments
- Private organizations
To give yourself the best chance for all available aid, start by completing the FAFSA — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Submitting this application gives you access to the largest pool of financial aid dollars and loans with the best terms. The FAFSA opens on Oct. 1 each year and you should complete your FAFSA as early as possible.
The second-largest pool of money comes from colleges, which may require you to fill out the FAFSA, the CSS Profile® or their own forms.
Finally, aid from private organizations is definitely worth researching and applying for, but it’s unlikely to be your main source of college money. Be strategic in completing these applications — you are more likely to get a local scholarship than a national one. And never pay for a scholarship search service — there are plenty of free tools out there.