Follow these steps to apply for federal financial aid and scholarships:

Step 1. Apply for scholarships.

Follow these tips for scholarship success:

  • Research potential awards by using free scholarship-search resources including your school counselor, the college you plan to attend, ScholarshipQuestand other free internet-based scholarship searches.
  • Complete an Activities Resume so you’ll have a list of your activities, honors, and awards handy when completing applications.
  • Create a list of scholarships you’re eligible to apply for. Tackle the most difficult applications first and pay attention to deadlines. If you miss a deadline, your application will not be considered.
  • Request letters of recommendation from adults who know you well. Give them plenty of notice, a deadline, information about the scholarship, and a copy of your Activities Resume.

Step 2. Create an Account.

To begin the process of applying for financial aid, you and a parent must each create a Federal Student Aid account at This is the site you will use to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and apply for and track student loans.

Step 3. Complete the FAFSA. 

The FAFSA is your application for federal, state, and college-based financial aid. Complete the form at on or after October 1 of your senior year.

The colleges you list on the application will use your FAFSA information to award financial aid. Submit the form before the college(s) FAFSA priority date to get the best financial aid package.

  • After you submit your FAFSA, expect a Student Aid Report (SAR) via an email link. IIt indicates your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and if further action is required. Renew the FAFSA every year you’re in college.
  • Use our free FAFSA Tools to help you prepare for and complete the FAFSA.

Step 4. Be Prepared for Verification.

Watch your student account and email closely as the college(s) might request verification of your FAFSA information. The college(s) will not process your financial aid package until you provide required documents. 

Step 5. Expect Financial Aid Offers.

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

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

   Cost of Education (tuition, books, living expenses)
– Expected Family Contribution (your FAFSA result)
   Your Financial Need

The colleges will award you as much of the “financial need” amount as possible. This could be a combination of scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans.

Step 6. Apply for Student Loans.

If you need student loans, your college will direct you to to complete the necessary forms. Allow several weeks processing time.