Find out as much as you can about the colleges or schools you are interested in attending. Request information on the costs of attendance, and estimate your school expenses using the net price calculator found on the college’s website.
Save money now to pay for school if you haven't already done so. Your parents may have saved money for your education in a traditional savings plan, a 529 plan, or a Roth IRA. In addition, you can save money for college by placing money you’ve received from gifts or from a part-time job in a savings account.
Discuss options for paying for school with your parents or guardian. Also, talk to your high school counselor about applying for local or private scholarships. Complete admission applications and request information about financial aid from the colleges and schools you are interested in attending. You can also view any information about financial aid on the college’s website.
Apply for an FSA ID at fsaid.ed.gov. The FSA ID allows you to sign the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) electronically.
Apply for financial aid by completing the FAFSA at https://fafsa.gov, which will help determine your need for financial aid. Complete the FAFSA online as soon as possible after Oct. 1 in the year before you plan to attend college.
Complete any other aid or admission forms required by the school.
Review the Student Aid Report (SAR) you receive via email in a week or two after completing the FAFSA. This will summarize the information you completed on your FAFSA, and will include your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). Review the SAR to make sure it is correct. If you need to make corrections, you can make updates to the FAFSA you submitted earlier, using your FSA ID. Any college you list on your FAFSA will receive your information.
Review the award letter you receive from your college. The letter, which comes from the school's financial aid office, will let you know what kind of financial aid, and how much, for which you qualify.
Consider the financial options outlined in the award letter. These options may include: grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs. Accept or reject all or part of the award package, and complete any other forms required by the school.
Reapply for financial aid each year you are in college or postsecondary training. If you filled out a FAFSA the year before, you will probably be eligible to complete the shorter Renewal FAFSA.