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Don’t let the cost of college stop you from getting a degree. There are ways to cover the cost, including financial aid. Take these steps to start the process.

Create an FSA ID

To begin the process of applying for financial aid, create a Federal Student Aid account (FSA ID) at Your parent will also need an FSA ID if you’re a dependent student.

Complete the FAFSA

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is your application for federal, state, and college-based financial aid. Complete the form at in the fall of each year. The colleges you list on the FAFSA will use your information to award financial aid.

Submit the form before the colleges’ FAFSA priority date to get the best financial aid offers. Use our free FAFSA Tools to help you prepare for and complete the form.

Renew the FAFSA every year you’re in college.

Expect a FAFSA Submission Summary

After you submit your FAFSA, expect a FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS) via an email from Federal Student Aid. The FSS indicates your Student Aid Index (the number a college uses to determine how much financial aid you can receive), your eligibility for a Pell Grant, and if you were selected for verification. Some need-based scholarship applications will also require your FSS.

Be Prepared for Verification

Watch your student portal and email closely, as colleges may request verification of your FAFSA information. Respond to this request quickly, as the colleges will not process your financial aid offer until you provide the required documents. 

Expect Financial Aid Offers

The colleges you listed on your FAFSA will notify you of the types and amounts of financial aid they offer. You will only receive offers from colleges that accepted you for admission. Accept or decline the financial aid offers by the deadline.

The colleges will use this “financial need” formula to calculate how much to offer you in financial aid:

  Cost of Education – Student Aid Index = Financial Need

Apply for Student Loans

If you qualify for student loans, your college will direct you to to complete the necessary forms. Depending on your financial need, you might receive a Subsidized Direct Loan (interest begins accruing after college) or an Unsubsidized Direct Loan (interest begins accruing immediately). Your college determines the amount you can borrow.

You must repay your student loan after you graduate or drop below half-time status. Click here for details about loan limits, interest rates, and repayment.