Ways to Pay

Steps to Getting Financial Aid

video startheregetthereYou must apply for financial aid to receive it. And you should apply for financial aid every year you attend college.

How much aid you receive depends on several things, such as your college costs, household income and savings, and the number of family members attending college. Some financial aid is based on grades and achievements.

Always start with free money first because you don't have to pay the money back.

You must pay back loans – with interest.

Follow these steps to apply for financial aid:

Step #1

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after January 1st as possible. Some financial aid is first come, first serve, so plan on starting right away.

Filling out the FAFSA will tell you whether you can get federal financial aid and how much aid you qualify for. 

The FAFSA is free. Do not pay to fill this out. There are companies that try to charge you for this. Remember, the first word in FAFSA is FREE.

The easiest way to complete your FAFSA is online at FAFSA.ed.gov. You can also request a paper copy from your guidance counselor, but you should do it online if you can.

The online application offers step-by-step assistance, you can ask your high school counselor to help. The FAFSA is available in English and Spanish.

To complete the FAFSA you and a parent will need a federal student aid PIN. This PIN lets you sign the form electronically.

Get your PIN at PIN.ed.gov. You'll receive your PIN immediately via email. If you don't have access to email, you can request it to be mailed, but it will take longer.

Learn more about the FAFSA.

Once your FAFSA is processed, you'll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). This will show how much federal aid you can get and how much your family can expect to pay. This is your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Step #2

Apply for New York State Aid.

If you are a New York State resident attending college in New York State, be sure to apply for the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and other state aid.

If you file the FAFSA online, simply follow the New York State resident TAP application link on the online FAFSA application.

You'll be asked to get a HESC PIN to complete your TAP application.

Step #3

Apply for aid from your college. This is called institutional aid.

The colleges you listed on the FAFSA receive a copy of your information. Once you're accepted for admission, the college will send you an award letter detailing all the aid you can receive at that college.

Check with your college to see if there are any additional applications for institutional aid. Some colleges require the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE.

Step #4

There are also many scholarships and awards offered by other sources such as community groups, clubs and organizations. Ask your high school guidance counselor to see what is available. There are also many FREE scholarship search websites. Do not pay for them. Click here to start searching for scholarships.

Step #5

You will receive a college award letter. The award letter summarizes the financial aid you will receive. Follow the instructions on how to accept or decline each part of the offer of aid, and supply any other documents as requested.

Call the financial aid office and make sure all of your documents are received and your financial aid is set before you start classes.

Step #6

Be sure you've gotten all the federal, state and institutional aid you qualify for.

If you still need money to pay for college, federal loans are your next best option. Federal loans have low, fixed-rates for students and parents. Follow the instructions in your award letter to receive federal loans. Visit studentaid.ed.gov for more information about student loans.

Remember, these loans must be paid back with interest.

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