The Federal Student Aid website is a user-friendly resource
If you are going to college or career school and wondering how to get financial aid, your first stop should be the website of the Federal Student Aid program. This website provides all you need to know about eligibility, types of financial aid, and how to apply. Here are some of the key things you will need to know.
What types of financial aid are there?
There are many different types of financial aid that you will want to explore. These include grants and scholarships, loans, work-study jobs, and tax benefits. The U.S. Department of Education awards approximately $140 billion per year in these types of aid. It is important to understand that loans must be re-paid, whereas grants typically do not require repayment but are more competitive and harder to get. As you are reading about different options, be sure you know the obligations that come along with the financial aid you are seeking.
How do I know if I am eligible?
Getting financial aid begins with eligibility. Below are some of the eligibility criteria that are common to most financial aid programs. Visit the Federal Student Aid program website to read more about these criteria:
For most student aid programs, you must:
- Demonstrate that you have financial need
- Have earned a high school diploma or equivalent, like a G.E.D. certificate
- Be a citizen of the United States or an eligible noncitizen
- Have a Social Security Number (SSN) that is valid
- Be registered with the Selective Service if you are a male aged 18 to 25
- Be enrolled as a regular student in a degree or certificate program that is eligible
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress
- Not be in default on any federal student loan or owe money on a federal student grant
If you meet these criteria, you are mostly likely eligible and can begin to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application is available on the Federal Student Aid website and can be completed online.
How do I apply?
Filling out a FAFSA application is not difficult, but like anything else, it takes a little time. And the process goes much more smoothly if you gather everything you need first.
To get started, apply for a Personal Identification Number (PIN) on the Federal Student Aid website. This will set up your account so that you can complete the application electronically.
Next you should gather relevant documents including:
- Your Social Security Number (SSN)
- Your driver’s license (if you have one)
- Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
- Your Federal tax information/your tax returns
- Records on any untaxed income
- Information on your cash/checking/savings account balances, investments, and other assets
- If you are a dependent, you will also need your parents’ Social Security Numbers and their financial information
What if I need help?
The Federal Student Aid website provides a number of resources to help you apply. There is a video on YouTube that can get you started. There are several help sections on the website once you start completing the application, and there is also a “chat” function. In addition, most colleges and career schools have financial aid advisors who can help you. Be sure to take advantage of all of these resources so that you are sure to complete the application correctly.
Figuring out how to get financial aid can seem like a mystery at first, but with a little time and research, you can be well on your way to applying. Remember, getting financial aid can help you reach your educational and career goals. Why not start applying today?
The Harris School of Business, founded in 1965, has a long history of providing career-focused education to students in the Delaware Valley. One of the services Harris provides is Financial Aid Advisors who help students determine the best way to finance their education. If you are interested in learning more about the Harris School, visit our home page, or contact us at 1.800.510.7920.