If you are an American student or permanent resident, understandably you would be applying for Financial Aid and scholarships as a part of your application processes. This can be very complicated and mystifying. Applying for financial aid and scholarships can seem much more complicated than applying for school itself. This is because if you choose to apply for financial aid (rather than just simply paying out of pocket) it is a process that can involve multiple government entities, your school, as well as your parents. To further explain the process we will go through the proper steps of applying for financial aid.
1. Complete Your Taxes
By completing your taxes you will ensure that the information you need to apply for financial aid is both accurate and complete. Sure, you can apply to FAFSA without completing your taxes but that severely complicates matters quite a lot as you will then have to go back and provide additional documentation as to what your income actually officially was. Completing your taxes before applying for financial aid makes things much more straightforward.
2. Register for the Selective Service
If you are a male from ages 18-25 in the United States you must register for the Selective Service prior to receiving any financial aid. The Selective Service is a system which drafts men into the military during a crisis. Failure to register can result in significant fines and jail time. Females are not required to register at this time.
3. Apply for your FAFSA PIN
Both students and parents then need to apply for a FAFSA PIN, or Personal Identification Number. Applying for a PIN is a relatively straightforward process. They will ask you simple questions such as your name, social security number, gender, date of birth, address, phone, email, etc.
4. Apply for FAFSA
Once you have applied for your PIN and filed your taxes you can finally sit down and apply for federal aid using the FAFSA. Make sure you have your tax returns for both parents as well as student. Also make sure that you have any necessary information such as social security numbers. If you are a permanent resident or in the process of being granted asylum you will be asked to provide your alien registration number in addition to a social security number. When applying you will also be asked to supply the school code number for any colleges you have applied to. See your advisor if you need that number. Make sure to answer the questions honestly; not answering the questions honestly could have very negative consequences including jail time as well as fines.
5. Complete the Rest of the Financial Aid Package
Often in addition to the FAFSA your college will have their own financial aid paperwork and forms for you to complete. Your school may have additional merit or need-based scholarships for those who may qualify.
6. Search for Outside Sources of Aid
The last and most interesting step of the financial aid process includes applying for outside sources of financial aid. This can be in the form of many different grants and scholarships from businesses or charitable institutions. When you start searching for other sources of financial aid it may be of help to have a list of your accomplishments. Also make sure to mention any academic accomplishments or awards given by community groups.
7. Patiently Await Results
Usually it takes several weeks for FAFSA results to come in. The school will then receive the report and use the rest of the FAFSA information as well as their other forms to complete your financial aid package. The entire financial aid process can take several months from start to finish, including the applications for outside scholarships.
All in all, applying for financial aid is tough but it is worth it! If you have any questions be sure to see your school’s financial aid personnel with any concerns you may have.