College Grants and Scholarships | Financial Aid and FAFSA

How to qualify for the most financial aid possible

College Grants and Scholarships | Financial Aid and FAFSA

College Grants and Scholarships

If you think you need help paying for your college education, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your starting point for applying to most student college grants and scholarships, including federal, state and campus-based aid.

High school students headed to college in the fall can submit their FAFSA for financial aid awards and low-interest loans. With $122 billion available, early applicants have the best chances of getting the most money for college.

Financial Aid and FAFSA

If you are dreading competing for financial aid and FAFSA, take a deep breath and relax. Completing the FAFSA is free. It takes a little time, but it is not as difficult as you may think. If you follow these basic steps, you could complete your FAFSA on the Web in as little as an hour or two.

Don’t have Internet access? Contact your high school guidance counselor for instructions on financial aid and FAFSA on paper.

Step 1: Get a Social Security Number (SSN)

If you submit the FAFSA without a SSN, your application will not be processed. To apply for a SSN, visit Social Security Online,

Step 2: Request a PIN

With a PIN, you can apply for and “sign” the FAFSA online, check the status of your submitted FAFSA and make corrections. If you plan to submit your FAFSA online, you (and one of your parents) can request a PIN at the U.S. Department of Education pin registration Web site,

Step 3: Make note of state and college deadlines and requirements

College and state deadlines tend to be earlier than the federal deadline (many as early as February or March) and may require an application in addition to the FAFSA. Play it safe—collect these dates and information early.

Step 4: Obtain the Financial Aid and FAFSA worksheet

Use this tool to help gather the information you need to complete the FAFSA. Worksheets are available from your high school guidance office, public library and online at You are not required to use the worksheet, but it can save you time.

Step 5: Complete the FAFSA on the Internet

To access FAFSA on the Web, visit (it is also offered in Spanish). Apply as soon as you can after January 1 because funding can be awarded on a first come, first served basis.

If your family’s tax return is not ready for filing, don’t put off completing the FAFSA. Estimate the tax information, submit the FAFSA, and be sure to make corrections later if necessary.

Completing the FAFSA online can help you by:

  • Offering online help for each question

  • Automatically performing calculations

  • Detecting potential errors before the application is processed

  • Faster processing than the paper version

  • Offering an online chat with a customer service rep if you have questions

Step 6: Review your Student Aid Report (SAR)

Your SAR summarizes the data you reported on your FAFSA. When you receive your SAR, carefully review it line by line. Make corrections or changes if necessary. If your FAFSA information is complete, an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is printed in the upper-right hand corner. Schools you listed on the FAFSA will receive electronic copies of your SAR.

Step 7: Determine if you need to verify your information

At least 30 percent of submitted FAFSAs are selected for verification. If you’ve been selected, an asterisk ( * ) will appear after your EFC number. You’ll be required to submit your tax returns and other documentation to your school’s financial aid office.

Step 8: Compare award letters

If you’re eligible for college grants and scholarships, schools to where you are accepted will send you an award letter. Carefully compare the amounts and types of aid awarded.

Learn more about college grants and scholarships, financial aid and FAFSA. Enroll in NextStepU today


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