Financial Aid Information

  1. Determine the costs. The first step in gathering financial aid information is to estimate how much it costs to attend the school of your choice including tuition and room and board. Don't forget to include other expenses such as fees, books, supplies, and transportation.

  3. The free stuff. How will you actually pay for school? Grants and scholarships (unlike loans) are free money that does not need to be paid back. Start there! Check with your guidance counselor or local organizations for scholarships. Or you can search online through websites. Check out our Scholarship Search for a helpful tool to find need-based and merit scholarships.

  5. The federal stuff. After scholarships and grants, you might still need money. The next step in understanding the financial aid process is to learn about the Federal Stafford Loan (which does need to be paid back). First, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at Also, check with the financial aid offices of the schools you're interested in to see if they require additional paperwork.

  7. The SAR. Completing the FAFSA generates what's called a Student Aid Report. The SAR shows your family's Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount of money the government determines your family will be expected to contribute towards your education.

  9. Your award. Using your SAR, financial aid offices determine your financial need and send you an award letter listing the amount of aid for which you are eligible (grants, scholarships, work-study and federal loans). This will enable you to determine the remaining costs.

  11. Fill in the gaps. If there is a “remaining cost” that your award letter didn't cover, other types of funding such as tuition payment plans, home equity loans and private student loans come into play—but not before you exhaust federal aid.

  13. Counseling. . . for your student loan. If you are a first-time borrower of federal loans, you'll need to complete what's called Entrance Counseling. This federal requirement provides you with federal student loan information, such as a loan overview explaining your borrower rights, responsibilities, and consequences of delinquency and default. Usually you can complete this online but check with your financial aid office for instructions.
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