There are millions of dollars left on the table for college financial aid. This is the case because many students do not apply for financial aid, assuming they do not display enough financial need or simply because the process itself seems too daunting. Don’t be one of those students. If you know all the steps to take in completing the financial aid process, applying for and receiving aid will be no insurmountable task. The resources provided here give students a solid foundation to start and complete the financial aid process, but, of course, if things are still a tad hazy when it comes to gaining college money, hire a financial aid consultant!


  1. Submit the FAFSA - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the most important documents to be aware of during this process, as it must be completed before any federal financial aid will be disbursed. SInce financial aid is distributed on a “first come, first served” basis, especially need based aid, do not procrastinate on submitting the FAFSA as close to the earliest submission date as possible. Make sure to read your FAFSA carefully and ensure that there are no mistakes because errors can be very costly.
  2. Submit any Non-Federal Applications - Federal aid may not cover all your educational expenses. Most schools require that students submit a Financial Aid Supplement or some form of application in addition to the FAFSA. A prime example is that many private schools require the CSS Profile, provided by the College Board.
  3. Review Student Aid Report (SAR) - about 4-6 weeks after your FAFSA is received by the federal government, you will receive in the mail an SAR, which informs you of your financial aid eligibility based on the results of the FAFSA. The schools you listed on the FAFSA also receive this report, so be sure to look over it thoroughly making any necessary corrections. You can submit these corrections online through the FAFSA website or through your school’s Financial Aid Office
  4. Applying for Additional Aid Again, the financial aid you receive from federal, state, or institutional sources may not be enough to cover the total costs of your education. In this case, students should apply for educational loans, which generally consist of “federally guaranteed” loans (Student or Parent Loans), as well as Private and Consolidation Loans. This is also the time to be searching for “free money” in the forms of scholarships, grants, and even work-study programs. This money  does not need to be repaid, thus saving you the stress of piling onto loan amounts.
  5. Verify Financial Information - Most schools will select students at random to requires their tax/ income forms in order to very the information, be sure that all personal finances reflect what was reported.
  6. Sign Promissory Notes (MPN) - first time borrowers only - An MPN is the student’s pledge to repay all the loans that he or she has borrowed.
  7. Verify all required applications and documents have been completed and submitted on time

Financial Aid Status - The Wait
Finally, the financial aid applications and paperwork are behind you and the hard part is over. Now we wait. While eagerly waiting you can monitor your financial aid status from a general standpoint. Accessing this information is easily done online.

  • FAFSA Status: First, navigate to the application status check on the FAFSA website. A table will appear in which to enter the following: Social Security Number, last name, first name, and date of birth (DOB). Then hit “submit” Available information includes whether or not the application has been processed, if the SAR report has been sent, etc.
  • Pell Grant Status: If the FAFSA SAR has not yet been received, it is best to wait on this. If it available to you, get it out now. Read the report, keeping a watchful eye information about the Pell Grant. At the minimum, the SAR will indicate whether you are eligible for this grant, and perhaps an estimated amount.
  • Stafford Loan Status: The best practice is to access the Stafford Loan website. Certain FAFSA information must be available before doing this. Log-in to the website with both a FSA ID.
apply today

Tired of writing scholarship essays?

We don't blame you! Take a break from writing and apply for our Recycled Essay Scholarship today.

Learn More