Talk to your guidance counselor.
Your high school guidance counselor will be able to discuss options for paying for college and will be a good resource throughout the financial-aid application process.
Read through the “FAFSA on the Web"” Worksheet.
This is a worksheet that allows you to find answers to common questions about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and read and complete the FAFSA questions before entering your information online. You can find the worksheet at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Compile your financial information.
Gather all financial information from the previous year, such as tax returns and W-2s; this includes your parents’ or guardian’s’ information.
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application.
The FAFSA should be completed at least six months prior to the fall semester of your first year at college. You can mail in a FAFSA form or apply online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Look for the confirmation known as the Student Aid Report (SAR).
Upon submitting the FAFSA, you will receive an SAR notifying you of your eligibility and reflecting all the information you included on your FAFSA. If you mailed your FAFSA, your confirmation should arrive by mail in about three weeks. If you applied online, you should receive your confirmation by mail in three to five days.
Thoroughly review your SAR.
Read all the instructions and make sure the data is correct. If something is wrong and needs to be corrected, contact the college financial-aid office for help.
Call if you do NOT receive confirmation.
Follow up if you have not received confirmation after five weeks; you should contact the U.S. Department of Education.
Look for verification forms from the colleges to which you applied.
The U.S. Department of Education sends your information to all schools listed on your FAFSA. Once the schools receive it, they will then send financial-aid forms in the mail to let you know what programs and awards you’re eligible for from that college.
Call the schools you listed on your FAFSA if you do NOT receive verification forms.
If you don’t hear from the schools you listed on your FAFSA within three weeks of receiving your SAR confirmation, call the schools’ financial-aid departments.
Compare the financial-aid packages.
Does one school give you better financial aid than another? Is that the school of your choice? What does each package cover?
Pick the college you would like to attend.
Choose the school that meets your financial and academic needs as well as any other criteria you consider a priority.
Fill out the financial-aid verification forms of the school you’d like to attend.
Complete the form in its entirety. Accept all or part of the financial aid offered. Verification forms often come with specified deadlines, so pay close attention to when it is due.
Submit the completed financial-aid verification forms to the school of your choice.
Return the financial-aid form to its corresponding school as soon as possible and make sure to include any additional documents noted.