Did you know that many students do not even apply for financial aid because they assume they do not display enough financial need or simply because the process itself seems too difficult? Countless people miss out on financial aid opportunities to earn money toward financing their education each and every day. In fact, a lot of these programs are not need based at all.  If you know the steps to take in completing the financial aid process, applying for and receiving aid will be no insurmountable task.

Financial Aid Process (Pre-Reward)

  1. Submit the FAFSA - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the most important documents to be aware of during this process, as it must be completed before any federal financial aid will be disbursed.  Since financial aid is distributed on a “first come, first served” basis, especially need based aid, do not hold off on submitting the FAFSA as close to the earliest submission date as possible (January 1st!).  Remember that the FAFSA is completely free, so there is no personal loss in completing it.  It can be time-consuming, so be sure to take a few glances at it before sitting down to fill it all out at once, as errors can be pretty costly toward your eligibility.
  2. Submit any Non-Federal Applications - Federal financial aid may not cover all the costs that you are facing for your education. Most schools require that students submit a Financial Aid Supplement or some form of application in addition to the FAFSA. For example, many private schools ask that students fill out the CSS Profile, which is provided by the College Board and determines your eligibility for non-government forms of financial aid (institutional grants, scholarships, loans, etc.).
  3. Review Student Aid Report (SAR) - About four to six weeks after your FAFSA is received by the federal government, you will receive in the mail a Student Aid Report (SAR), which informs you of your financial aid eligibility based on the results of the FAFSA.  The schools you listed on the FAFSA also receive this report, so be sure to look over it thoroughly, making any necessary corrections.  You can submit these corrections online through the FAFSA website or through your school’s Financial Aid Office.
  4. Apply For Additional Aid - Again, the financial aid you receive from federal, state or institutional sources may not be enough to cover the total costs of your education.  In this case, students should apply for education loans, which generally consist of “federally guaranteed” loans (Student or Parent Loans), as well as Private and Consolidation Loans.  This is also the time to be searching for “free money” in the form of scholarships, grants and even work-study programs.  This is money that does not need to be repaid, thus saving you the stress of piling onto the loan amounts.
  5. Verify Financial Information - Since most schools will select students at random to request their tax/income forms in order to verify the information, be sure that all personal finances are up to par.  The last thing you want is for the school to question your handling of your assets in any way.
  6. Sign Master Promissory Notes (MPN) - A Master Promissory Note is the student’s pledge to repay all the loans that he or she has borrowed, and is required for first-time borrowers.  After submitting MPNs, students should verify that all required applications and other documents have been completed and sent in on time.

Remember that just about everyone qualifies for some form of financial aid.  If this process seems even a bit overwhelming, do not hesitate to ask for assistance.  Many students seek the guidance of Financial Aid Consultants to guide them through this process and make it as stress-free as possible.

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