Paying for a College Education
Learn how to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to pay for your college education
With more than 4,000 colleges and universities to choose from, the college search process can be confusing. But how can your family master a parallel task - one that can perhaps be just as intimidating - the process of figuring out how to pay for college?
Actually, it's not as complicated as it might seem, since the starting point is the same for everyone: filing the FAFSA form. This is the uniform path through which everyone attending an institution in the US applies for federal student aid, and its straightforward, step-by-step procedures will guide you through most of the important parts of the student application process.
Step one - applying online
After you and your parents or guardians have gathered the necessary paperwork you'll need to complete the application, (especially your parents or guardians most recent tax forms), it will take about an hour to fill out the application online, at www.fafsa.ed.gov. It helps to first download a FAFSA on the web worksheet, available at the same site, which will help you assemble all the paperwork you'll need to complete the application. The benefits of filing online include:
- Automatic calculations
- Faster filing than submitting a paper version
- Error detection before the application is processed
- Available online help to answer any questions
Step two - reviewing your student aid report
After filing the form, you'll receive an email with your SAR, or student aid report (basically a summary of the information you provided), within three to five days of the processing of the FAFSA, (or seven to ten days by postal mail if you haven't supplied an email). The SAR will include your expected family contribution (EFC), which outlines how much your family will be expected to contribute to your educational costs. Some families fill this gap through federal and/or private student loans. Study the SAR and make sure it's correct and complete. This information will also be shared with the schools to which you've applied.
Step three - comparing your award letters
Those schools will soon send you financial award letters (typically in late March/early April), which will contain details on the federal student aid for which you qualify as well as any institutional aid (basically grants and scholarships they will provide from their own fundraising efforts). Your job is then to study the various offers, and decide which is most attractive for you and your family.
Step four - filling the gap with scholarships and/or private student loans
Most students will find that a gap remains between what they're being offered in financial aid and what school will actually cost. That generally means looking at alternative financing arrangements, from filing a college student loan application for a private student loan to tapping into home equity.
Start a college student loan application with Citizens Bank
If you're interested in learning more about the federal student loan application or want additional student loan resources to help you understand your options, we have what you need. Also, we have helpful information about our affordable Citizens Bank TruFit Student Loan®. If you still have questions, call a student loan specialist at 1-800-708-6684, and we'll help walk you through the college student loan application process.