Apply for financial aid

The first step in applying for financial aid is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which collects information about you and your family's financial situation.

You should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 of the year you are requesting aid. Check with the schools you're interested in attending and your state department of higher education for specific deadlines (some state deadlines are online).

  1. If possible, complete your income taxes (and/or have your parents complete their income taxes) before you complete the FAFSA.
  2. Plan to complete the FAFSA online, as it reduces errors. If you are unable to apply online, the FAFSA is available in paper form or as a PDF document (English, Spanish).
  3. To submit the FAFSA online, you and your parent need to apply for a PIN (Personal Identification Number). The PIN allows you to sign the FAFSA electronically.
  4. Have the following items [for you and your parent(s), if applicable] on hand when you prepare to complete the FAFSA:
    • Income tax return, or solidly estimated tax information
    • W-2 forms and other records of money earned
    • Records of untaxed income (e.g., unemployment benefits in some states)
    • Current bank statements
    • Business and farm records
    • Records of investments
    • Drivers' licenses and Social Security cards
    • Dates of birth
  5. Answer all questions (even if you need to estimate).
  6. List the colleges you’re considering attending. You may list up to 10 if filing the FAFSA online.
  7. Remember to sign the FAFSA electronically with a PIN if you complete the FAFSA online.
    • If you complete the FAFSA online without a PIN, you’ll need to sign and mail the signature pages.
    • If you complete a paper form, sign the completed form and mail it.
  8. Watch for your Student Aid Report (SAR) to arrive a few weeks after submitting your completed and signed FAFSA.
  9. Review the financial aid award letter you receive from each college listed on your FAFSA. The colleges you list on the FAFSA automatically receive your results and use them to prepare your financial aid package. The award letter lists the financial aid you are eligible to receive at that college.

Keep in mind:

  • If you filed a FAFSA in the previous academic year and provided your e-mail address, you will receive a Renewal FAFSA notification in February from the U.S. Department of Education. When you file your FAFSA online for the current year, the majority of your data will be pre-filled – all you’ll need to do is make the necessary corrections/revisions before electronically signing and submitting.
  • If you do not receive your SAR within four weeks after the date you submit your FAFSA, check the status of your application by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4 FED-AID.

Find the help you need to complete the FAFSA.