How to apply for financial aid for college

Stepping into college is a whole lot of experience. You not only enter a new phase of life but, also expected to be more independent. Today, the hike in education fees makes it difficult for some students to pursue further education. So, with college costs rising approximately 7% each year, it is simply daunting to arrange the money. You must have heard people talking about financial aid and how it can help you pay your college expenses. So, if you still have not heard about it, I am here to help you understand how to apply for financial aid. 

So, you can still manage to complete your higher education and enjoy your new beginnings. Applying for financial aid for college is not as scary as you think it is. A few steps can help you and your family to arrange for funds. 

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Financial Aid

Financial aid – money given to you to help you pay for your education. Most full-time college students receive some source of financial aid, which makes college more affordable. So, applying for financial aid is like applying for college admission, but they are not the same thing. You still have to follow a different procedure when you want to apply for financial aid. 

So, the financial aid application process usually has its applications, deadlines, and requirements. You don’t have to wait to get admitted to a college before you apply for financial aid. Financial aid is in the form of grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study jobs. It often comes from the federal government, state governments, colleges and universities, and private organizations.

If you get financial aid, it helps you and your family cover higher education expenses, such as tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. Financial aid can be need-based, merit-based, or both. The amount of financial help you receive depends on the rules set by various sources and federal, state, and university guidelines.

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How to file for financial aid?

Step 1

The first step is to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. This application – referred by many state agencies and colleges and universities to determine college aid. When you apply for FAFSA, you are eligible for a huge amount of financial aid from federal, state, and college sources. You can fill out the form free of cost. 

The FAFSA – the solution considered for the most types of aid, including Grants, Scholarships, Work-study jobs, Loans. You must check the state and college deadlines and file your application earliest. You can send your FAFSA application to multiple colleges and reapply every year. The FAFSA is available for free through the Department of Education’s website. Do not forget to fill out your FAFSA forms by 1 October to make sure you get as much aid as possible. Do not forget to check state and college deadlines. 

Step 2

You must find out if any more financial aid forms required. The aid from colleges covers Grants, Scholarships, Loans. Many private schools use a supplemental form called the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile to determine how to give out the financial aid funds. While you must know, this form is more detailed than the FAFSA and can be time-consuming to complete. These forms – usually college-owned- You must check with the financial aid office or college website. 

College Scholarship Service (CSS) is sponsored by the College Board and used by roughly 400 mostly private colleges and universities to distribute non-government financial aid from those institutions. CSS is generally required by the most elite colleges- It takes into account assets that are excluded on the FAFSA. It calculates the value of a family’s home, small business, or a grandparent-funded 529 plan, to name a few differences. Do not forget to check with the deadlines, as each college will have its own. 

Step 3

You will see there are many private scholarship programs available too. Though these programs may only offer a few hundred dollars, this money can support you to pay for books or living expenses. You must keep checking online with the organizations that provide this aid. 

Check our guide on What is need-based financial aid to know the different types of financial aid you can apply for. 


When you are applying for financial aid for college, you must plan it early- it increases your chances to get in. Before taking any financial help, you must know what kind of debt you are getting into- be it financial aid that you do not have to pay. You must read all the terms and conditions of each program thoroughly. 

Understanding your financial commitment is an essential step you must take when you opt for financial aid. Also, you must be sure of what kind of help you need. In some cases, you might not need as much money you think you need. Determine your needs diligently and apply for your financial aid accordingly.

When you are applying for financial aid, you must plan it out well. The more you plan, the more chances you have to receive financial aid. 

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