Paying for college seems more and more expensive with each passing year, and increasing numbers of students are turning to financial aid as a way to pay their tuition. However, the whole process of signing up for financial aid can be confusing. So how do you get started?
How to Apply for Financial Aid
The financial aid application process can look pretty challenging at first glance, but it’s not actually all that hard once you sit down and take a look at it.
1. Apply to the FAFSA. The first step in any financial aid application is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be found on the FAFSA website.
2. The FAFSA is reviewed. Following your FAFSA application, it gets reviewed by the Department of Education. The Department of Education determines the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), or how much the student’s family should be able to contribute to their education. The higher the EFC, the less the student will be able to receive in financial aid.
3. Receive the results. After your FAFSA gets reviewed by the Department of Education, the financial aid application process can continue. You’ll receive your results in the form of a Student Aid Report (SAR), which explains how much federal funding the student can receive for their students. A further report, the Institutional Student Information Report (ISIR), is sent to the schools the student is interested in attending. The ISIR tells each of the student’s selected schools how much financial aid the student can receive.
4. Receiving and Reviewing the Award Letter. Following receipt of the ISIR and the student’s application, universities use the information contained in both documents to draft an award letter for the student. The award letter is usually received in the mail and tells the student how much they’ve received in grants and scholarships and how much they can borrow as federal or private student loans.
5. Accepting the award letter from your preferred school. Once they’ve received the award letter, the student can choose what amount of money they want or need for school, up to the full amount as stated in the award letter. Any awards monies must be accepted through whatever process the school prefers, along with filling out any of the requisite paperwork. Students should only review and accept award letters from the schools that they plan to attend.
After a student has accepted an award letter from his or her preferred college, the biggest chunk of the financial aid application process is done. Next, the student should ensure that they have enough money to pay for the schooling of their choice — if they didn’t get enough in grants or scholarships, the next place to look is student loans.
How to Apply for Student Loans
After you’ve applied for your FAFSA and received financial aid through your award letter, you may still find yourself lacking the funds to go to your preferred school. If this is the case, consider signing up for a student loan. The process for doing so is as follows.
1. Begin the Federal Student Aid process. All federal student loans are initially processed by the Federal Student Aid office, so go to their website to start the process.
2. Create an FSA ID. A Federal Student Aid ID serves as your online signature for legal documents you sign through FSA and gives you access to the FSA office’s online systems.
3. Apply for loans. Once you register for and receive your FSA ID, you can begin applying for loans, either through FSA’s site or through private loan brokers such as Discover.
If applying for student loans through a private company isn’t something you want to do, many schools, like Vista College, offer information on the types of federal aid that students can receive as a way to help them pay for college. Options include the Pell Grant, a federal student loan, a Parent PLUS loan or military benefits such as the G.I. Bill. If you’re interested in getting your tuition for college managed, call one of Vista College’s financial aid counselors at 1-866-442-4197, or take a look at our website to request more information.