Borrow only what you need. Remember that loans must be repaid even if you do not finish school. Your education is a substantial investment and one of the most important decisions you can make.
Step 1: Gather the documents you will need.
- Your Social Security Number
- Your drivers license (if any)
- Your 2008 W-2 Forms and other records of money earned
- Your (and your spouse’s if you are married) 2008 Federal Income Tax Return (or your Foreign Tax Return)
- Your parents’ 2008 Federal Income Tax Return (if you are a dependent student)
- Your 2008 untaxed income records
- Veterans benefits records
- Child support received
- Worker’s compensation
- Your current bank statements
- Your current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond, and other investment records
- Your alien registration or permanent resident card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
For a FAFSA worksheet that can help you prepare, click here.
Step 2: Obtain a PIN
The next step is to obtain a Personal Identification Number or PIN, a code you will use each year to access your Federal Student Aid records online, and apply for Financial Aid. If you are mailing your paperwork, you don’t need to obtain a PIN, but it is highly recommended to speed up the process and track your application.
Apply for a Federal Student Aid PIN here.
Important: Your PIN serves as your electronic signature and provides access to your personal records, so never give your PIN to anyone, including commercial services that offer to help you complete your FAFSA. Be sure to record and keep your PIN in a safe place.
Step 3: Fill out the FAFSA
In order to determine your eligibility your must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Eligibility is determined by your financial situation and other factors. (See “Financial Aid/Eligibility” section for specifics.)
Free Application for Federal Student Aid can be found here.
Important: All students should check with their school’s financial aid office to determine their exact FAFSA deadlines and requirements.
Step 4: Sign Your Student Aid Report
A Student Aid Report (SAR) is a document you will receive after your FAFSA is processed. It will list all of your provided answers. Review these for accuracy and make any necessary changes. If you’ve used a PIN, you should electronically sign and submit the signature page. If you are mailing your Student Aid Report, sign it and follow the attached directions.
The SAR will contain your Expected Family Contribution, which is used to determine your eligibility for financial aid during one school year. Your school will receive an electronic copy of the SAR and use this information to decide how much financial aid you are eligible to receive.
Step 5: Determine Your Options
Congratulations! You have made it through the Financial Aid Application process. You will now know how much assistance in federal loans and/or grants you are eligible for. At this point you can choose how much money you would like to accept and/or explore other funding options.
Important: Keep track of all deadlines and required paperwork. If you have any questions, contact your financial aid advisor.
Financial Aid will be disbursed to you no sooner than the beginning of each school term. Aid will only be disbursed if you have fulfilled all requirements, including paperwork and promissory notes.
To insure timely disbursement, it is essential to keep track of all correspondence from your lender and financial aid office. Make sure to reply in a timely manner when applicable.
IMPORTANT LOAN INFORMATION
As with any loan, make sure you fully understand the interest rates, repayment terms, and tax implications. Find out whether interest charges are variable or fixed, whether the loan has forgiveness or deferment provisions, whether you can consolidate the loan with other loans, and whether it carries prepayment penalties.
Borrow only what you need. Remember that loans must be repaid even if you do not finish school. Your education is a substantial investment. It’s one of the most important decisions you can make for your future. Take time to learn all of your financial aid options before you make any decision.