Pay for School

Applying for Financial Aid

Applying for financial aid seems like a daunting prospect to families facing it for the first time. The forms seem to always be changing and each college seems to want you to provide something different. First of all, there are two forms you need to become familiar with, the FAFSA and the PROFILE. Check with the financial aid office at each school you are considering to see which forms you'll need to complete.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

This basic required form must be filed by any student who wishes to be considered for the federal financial aid programs—Federal Pell Grant, Federal Work-Study, a Federal Perkins Loan, a Federal Stafford Loan, etc. The FAFSA takes into account information such as income, family size, the number of children in school, and the age of the older parent. The federal processor reviews this information and returns an amount called Expected Family Contribution (EFC), or the out-of-pocket expense of which your family is expected to contribute.

Applying for federal student aid is free. The FAFSA is usually available from financial aid offices after November 1. Apply as soon as possible after January 1 of the year you plan to attend school. Some schools set deadlines as early as March for certain types of funds (for which you will not be eligible until after you complete the FAFSA). FAFSA on the Web is an online version of the FAFSA available at the U.S. Department of Education website.


This form, now used by many institutions, was designed to assist colleges that wanted more information (and earlier information) than the federal government was providing from the FAFSA. Usually, these colleges have their own funds to award and the PROFILE gives them the additional information they need for their award process. This application process does require a processing fee.

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