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Step by Step Guide to Applying for Student Financial Aid

Updated on September 27, 2012
Federal Student Aid
Federal Student Aid

What is financial aid?

It provides financial help for eligible students to pay for educational expenses at an eligible school. There are three types of federal student aid. These include grants, work-study and loans. You'll need to check with your school to see which programs they participate in. Financial aid helps to pay for expenses such as tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies and transportation. I will show you the steps that you need to take in order to apply for student financial aid but first you must know...

Who is eligible to receive financial aid or federal student aid?

In or for students to receive federal student aid, they must

  • demonstrate financial need

  • be a U.S. citizen or eligible, legal alien

  • have a valid Social Security Number

  • be working towards a degree or certificate in an eligible program

  • show academic progress

  • register with the selective service if this is your first time(only males between the ages of 18 and 25 must register)

You must also show that you have qualified for your education. This means you'll need your GED or high school diploma.

How to apply for student financial aid? (or federal student aid)

  1. Get your PIN - The first thing you should do is get a Federal Student Aid PIN from This will allow you to sign your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) electronically. Keep this PIN safe at all times.

  2. Complete your FAFSA - The second thing you want to do is head on over to and fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the corresponding year. If you prefer a paper FAFSA, you can get one at and download the PDF. It is much faster to do this electronically.

  3. Required documents - You will need to collect all of the documents need to apply. This include income tax returns and W-2's. You may also need other records of income. A list of what you need will be provided on the FAFSA website above.

  4. Receive your SAR – After you complete your FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education will send you your Student Aid Report (SAR) via email. Review your SAR and make any necessary corrections. If you made corrections, re-submit it. Your SAR should show your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is the number used to determine how much you're eligible to receive.

  5. Be ready – The school that you plan to attend may require additional information from you. Be ready to provide this information accurately and on time. If not, you may not receive any financial aid.

  6. Verification – After you receive your SAR, you have to wait until your FAFSA is verified. This process is called “Verification”. Contact your school to see how long this process takes because it varies form school to school.

  7. Receive your award letter – Once your FAFSA has processed, you should receive an award letter stating that you have successfully completed the requirements and are eligible to receive federal student aid.

Note: Always stay in contact with your school's financial aid office for updates on your information and processing times. Don't be afraid to ask questions. It will be well worth it. I hope this helps you to better understand the necessary steps for applying for student financial aid.

I also recommend these great hubs to help you better understand your options:

Is Federal Student Aid Enough?

Student Loan - How to Finance College

Available Options for Student Loans in the United States


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    • fresh2def05 profile image

      fresh2def05 7 years ago from Louisville, Ky

      Good for you, summerrose. I wish you the best of luck and I hope this helps to ease the process.

    • profile image

      summerrose70 7 years ago

      Thanks for the info.I'm about to go through this process soon!!