About Financial Aid

The first mistake many students and families make is assuming they can't afford college. Don't be discouraged by the sticker price of college until you know how much financial aid may be available to you. Financial aid can significantly reduce the cost of college, but it can be tricky to estimate how much student aid you will get. Two factors are generally used to determine who gets student aid and how much they get: need and merit. 

  • "Merit-based" aid is given to students who do something exceptionally well (like music, athletics, or academics) or to students who plan to have a career in an area that will benefit the community or the country (like teaching, science, math, and engineering). 
  • "Need-based" aid is given to students who demonstrate a lack of financial resources to pay for college.

Some student aid programs use a combination of need and merit to determine eligibility.

It all starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). With this one application, you can apply for financial aid at multiple colleges and from multiple funding sources (federal, state, institutional and private providers of assistance). Mistakes can delay your application, potentially limiting the amount of aid you are eligible to receive. As you prepare to fill out your FAFSA, keep this list of FAFSA Tips and Common Mistakes To Avoid handy.

Completing Your FAFSA

You will need to fill out the FAFSA once for each academic year that you will attend school. The farther in advance you do it, the better! 

2020 - 2021 Academic Year 

The FAFSA for next academic year (July 1, 2020June 30, 2021) became available online on October 1, 2019. To begin your application, go to https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.

  • Students and parents can either complete and submit the 2020–2021 FAFSA on a computer via the website above, or on a phone or tablet by using the Department of Education's myStudentAid mobile app.
  • Customers who are using an Apple device (mobile and/or desktop) may encounter errors on some FAFSA fields if the “smart punctuation” feature is enabled. This feature changes apostrophes and quotation marks to invalid characters that the FAFSA form cannot recognize. Learn about solutions for this error.
  • Instead of waiting until you and/or your parents have completed your tax returns for the 2019 year, which likely won't be finalized until Spring 2020, you will complete the 2020–21 FAFSA using financial and tax information from 2018.

You may also want to view or/print off this FAFSA checklist, which tells you what information and forms you need to have on-hand to help you fill out the FAFSA.

  • The FSA ID, made up of a username and password, is used to confirm an your identity when you access your financial aid information and electronically sign your federal student aid documents. While you are not required to have an FSA ID to complete and submit a FAFSA on the Web application, it is the fastest way to sign your application and have it processed. It is also the only way to access or correct your information online, or to pre-fill a FAFSA on the Web application with information from your previous year’s FAFSA. If you don't already have an FSA ID, you can create one now.
  • Deadlines for state financial aid programs — complete your FAFSA before this date to get priority consideration for financial aid from your state.

2019 - 2020 Academic Year 

The FAFSA for the 2019–2020 academic year (July 1, 2019–June 30, 2020) became available on October 1, 2018 and will be available online until June 30, 2020. You can submit a FAFSA at any point during the year, even if a semester is already underway. If you have had a change in financial circumstances since the semester first began, speak to a financial aid administrator at your school to discuss your financial aid options. To begin your application, go to https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa or download the myStudentAid mobile app.


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