When And How To Apply For College Financial Aid

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Contrary to popular belief, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) does not automatically mean that you’ve applied for financial aid from your college. The FAFSA is how you apply for money from the federal government (and colleges use this information as a part of their award process). However, often you’ll have to complete another separate application in order to be considered for money from your school and/or your state. You do not have to do anything else to be considered for federal financial aid. Make sure that your school’s financial aid office knows that is your intent, otherwise they may think your application is incomplete.

There are three possible situations, and it’s your job to figure out which of them you are in.


Your school will require one of the following:

  • Only require the FAFSA
  • Require both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile
  • Require both the FAFSA and their own specific financial aid application

You can figure out what your school requires by checking out their financial aid website or by calling the financial aid office and asking directly. (Remember to call each school that you are interested in if you are applying for your freshman year.) When you’re doing your research, you’ll want to try to answer the following questions:

  • What applications do I need to complete in order to be considered for any grants or scholarships from my school?
  • What are the deadlines for those forms?

Once you have that information, you’re all set to complete the financial aid application process for your school.

Additionally, there are organizations that offer scholarships to specific schools or towns, and your school may not know about these awards. So, be sure to search for private scholarships for your college as well.

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