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Applying for Federal Aid

Federal student aid is financial assistance through the U.S. Department of Education available to eligible students enrolled at schools participating in the federal student aid program. Federal student aid covers school expenses such as tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. This aid can also help you pay for a computer and dependent child-care expenses.

Applying for Federal Student Aid
Get free information and help from your school counselor at the financial aid office at the college or career school you plan to attend, or the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid at or 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). Free help is available any time during the application process. You should never have to pay for help.

Step 1 Get a Federal Student Aid PIN, a personal identification number. A PIN lets you apply, “sign” your online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), make corrections to your application information, and more—all online. Apply for a PIN at

Step 2 Collect the documents needed to apply, including income tax returns and W-2 forms (and other records of income). A full list of what you need is at Tax return not completed at the time you apply? Estimate the tax information, apply, and correct information later.

Step 3 Complete the FAFSA between January 1 and June 30 (no exceptions to either date). BUT, apply as soon as possible on or after January 1 to meet school and state aid deadlines. Apply online (the faster and easier way) by visiting

Step 4 Federal Student Aid will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR)—which is a summary of the information from your FAFSA. Review your SAR, and if necessary, make changes or corrections and submit your SAR for reprocessing. Your complete, correct SAR will contain your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)—the number used to determine your federal student aid eligibility.

Step 5 If you are selected for verification, follow the verification process. Complete the appropriate worksheet and submit with all other applicable information to our office. It is critical you respond quickly so your aid is not delayed. 

Step 6 All financial aid applicants: Contact the financial aid office if you have any questions about the aid being offered. Review the Award Letter and return to the financial aid office signed. This indicates your acceptance of the aid offered.

Note: You also might be able to get financial aid from your state government, or a private scholarship. Research nonfederal aid early. Be sure to meet all application deadlines.

There are three categories of federal student aid: grants, work-study, and loans.

Eligibility for most federal student aid programs is based on financial need and several other factors. Your eligibility is determined by the information you provide on the FAFSA.

Basic eligibility requirements:
  • Demonstrate financial need (except for certain loans, see "Loans" section).
  • Be a U.S. citizen or Eligible noncitzen with a valid Social Security number (SSN).
  • Be working toward a degree or certificate in an Eligible Program.
  • Show, by one of the following means, that you’re qualified to obtain a postsecondary education:
  • Register (if you haven’t already) with the Selective Service, if you’re a male between the ages of 18 and 25.
  • Maintain satisfactory Satisfactory Academic Progress once in school.