When do I apply for financial aid? Can I apply before I’ve applied to college?

Early in your senior year of high school, you and your parents (if you are a dependent student), should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA form becomes available on October 1 for the following academic year.

The FAFSA not only helps determine your eligibility for federal aid, it is used to determine eligibility for state and college financial aid too. Since some aid programs have limited funds, applying early is encouraged. List on your FAFSA the colleges to which you expect to apply or have applied so each will receive information about your expected family contribution. Having that information helps each college determine whether you have need for financial aid and how they might meet it.

Does applying for financial aid affect my chances of getting into a college?

Most schools have separate admissions and financial aid offices. Admission is determined based on your academic credentials, special talents, extracurricular activities, recommendations and, often, considers test scores such as SAT or ACT and your personal statement if an essay is required. Financial aid is determined based either on merit (outstanding academic achievement, athletic prowess, musical talent, etc.), financial need, or both. Don’t be afraid to apply for aid.

My parents have been saving for my college education, do I still need to fill out the FAFSA?

It’s always a good idea to fill out the FAFSA, even if you think your parents have enough money to pay for your education. There’s no cost for submitting the FAFSA and you may find you’re eligible for scholarships and grants, which don’t need to be paid back. So it’s worth a try.

What should I do if my financial aid package isn’t enough?

Talk to a financial aid administrator at the college to see if there are any other options for help you can get to pay for college. However, you should realize that adjustments to aid awards, especially need-based awards, are usually not negotiable. Awards may be changed if your family circumstances have changed (such as unemployment, death, or change in marital status of a parent or by major non-discretionary expenses, such as medical bills) or other new information that should be considered.

Compare financial aid packages from all the colleges or universities to which you’ve been accepted. The financial aid each offers represents the best effort of the aid office to meet your demonstrated need. Some institutions are able to meet your need in full, but others cannot.

Do I have to take the work-study job I’ve been offered with my financial aid, or can I decline it?

You have the choice of declining any part of your financial aid package, including a work-study job. However, you may want to consider the fact that on-campus work-study means you earn money without taking as much time away from your academics because you don’t have to commute to an off-campus job site. You may make more money with another job, but your time is important too.

Do I have to apply for financial aid every year?

Yes, you need to submit a FAFSA every year you will be in college and hope to receive financial aid. Remember to fill out the FAFSA as early as you can, and provide all information requested.

More Frequently Asked Questions