About Financial Aid

NASFAA MeetingThe first mistake many students and families make is assuming they can't afford college. Don't be discouraged by the sticker price of college until you know how much financial aid may be available to you. Financial aid can significantly reduce the cost of college, but it can be tricky to estimate how much student aid you will get. Two factors are generally used to determine who gets student aid and how much they get: need and merit. 

  • "Merit-based" aid is given to students who do something exceptionally well (like music, athletics, or academics) or to students who plan to have a career in an area that will benefit the community or the country (like teaching, science, math, and engineering). 
  • "Need-based" aid is given to students who demonstrate a lack of financial resources to pay for college.

Some student aid programs use a combination of need and merit to determine eligibility.

It all starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). With this one application, you can apply for financial aid at multiple colleges and from multiple funding sources (federal, state, institutional and private providers of assistance). Mistakes can delay your application, potentially limiting the amount of aid your are eligible to receive. As you prepare to fill out your FAFSA, keep this list of FAFSA Tips and Common Mistakes To Avoid handy.

Completing Your FAFSA

You will need to fill out the FAFSA once for each academic year that you will attend school. The farther in advance you do it, the better! 

2017 - 2018 Academic Year 

The FAFSA for next academic year (July 1, 2017- June 30, 2018) became available online on October 1, 2016. To begin your application, go to https://fafsa.ed.gov/ and click "Start A New FAFSA."

  • Thanks to executive action taken by President Obama on September 13, 2015, instead of waiting until you and/or your parents have completed your tax returns for the previous year, you will now complete FAFSA, using information from two years prior.

You may also want to view or/print off this FAFSA checklist, which tells you what information and forms you need to have on-hand to help you fill out the FAFSA.

  • Students, parents, and borrowers are required to use an FSA ID, made up of a username and password, to access certain U.S. Department of Education websites. Your FSA ID is used to confirm your identity when accessing your financial aid information and electronically signing your federal student aid documents. If you don't already have one, you can create one now.
  • Deadlines for state financial aid programs - complete your FAFSA before this date to get priority consideration for financial aid from your state.
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