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Understand the financial aid process

Understand Financial Aid Process

Note: The checklist links to our financial aid center at for complete information regarding your financial aid needs.

You can download this checklist to use as a guide:
download PDF checklist file

student financial aid checklist

First Thing, Make Sure You Complete
Your Off-to-College Tasks

If you are going to college, make sure you complete and submit the required documents.

Deadlines include essay and application submissions, college visits, housing selection, and gathering those things for the move.

Our quick calendar of events can help
(links to our Off-to-College planning center):
go to our Off-to-College Planning Guide and Calendar

student financial aid checklist

How Much Is It Going to Cost

Depends on where you are going:
view with quick table of estimated costs

Costs include tuition, housing, books, transportation and more:
view expected college costs (aid step 1)

TIP: print our tally sheet to keep tabs on cost and the available aid that you get: print student aid tally sheet

student financial aid checklist

Where is the Money Coming From

$135 Billion dollars were disbursed last year in financial aid for students. The largest percentage was federal loans.

(we will review each of these aid options under Aid Step 5)

Federal Loans 51% $68.6
Institutional Grants 18% $24.4
Federal Pell Grants 9% $12.7
Private & Employer Grants 7% $9.3
State Grants 5% $6.8
Education Tax Benefits 4% $6.0
Other Federal Programs 4% $5.3
Federal Campus Based 2% $3.1
Total 100% $135 billion

These are just some of the sources of financial aid. Other aid for college includes:

  • scholarships
  • campus aid
  • private student aid and loans
  • EFC
student financial aid checklist

What is EFC

EFC is the Expected Family Contribution for higher education. In other words, financial aid is awarded based on a formula that calculates the total cost of attending school and the expected family contribution to that cost.

we have more information about EFC

student financial aid checklist

Do You Qualify for Financial Aid

Before you start the financial aid process, you must qualify as either a dependant or independent student.

Review qualifications:
go to Financial Aid Note 1

student financial aid checklist

Understand the Financial Aid Process

First comes the FAFSA form, then the SAR, and then the Financial Aid letter from your school.

Link to our Financial Aid Step to view the process:
go to Financial Aid Steps

student financial aid checklist

FAFSA Submission

Almost all financial aid begins with your filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

This form is required for all Federal Student Loans and many college aid programs, including some scholarships. You can file the FAFSA form starting in January for the upcoming Fall academic year.

What you will need to file:

  • tax returns
  • W-2 forms
  • bank statements
  • Social Security and VA Benefits, if any

visit Aid Step 2 for FAFSA Information and Links

student financial aid checklist

Understand the Types and Sources of Student Financial Student Aid

Financial aid programs include grants, scholarships, loans, state programs, and other special aid.

We have complete information on types and sources:
start With Our Financial Aid List: Aid Step 5

You can view a summary chart of financial aid options:

financial aid chart: for undergraduates
financial aid chart: for graduates
financial aid chart: for parents
financial aid chart: for continuing students

student financial aid checklist

Check with Your Financial Aid Office

Your school's financial aid office is the control center for student financial aid.

Talk with your college's financial aid office to see how they can help. Be prepared to ask questions such as:

  1. What are the filing deadlines?
  2. What forms are required?
  3. What percentage of the college costs is covered by the financial aid award package?
  4. Can the award package be negotiated?

    Connect to your schools web site for the aid office:
    use our college directory
student financial aid checklist

Start Searching for Scholarship Money

Scholarship awards can go fast, so start early — usually in the Fall prior to the start of your college year.

Check your field of study, ethnic background, social and religious affiliations, parent's employment, family club memberships, and local businesses and clubs:

scholarship searchbegin your scholarship search

TIP: print our tally sheet to keep tabs on what your find: print student aid tally sheet

student financial aid checklist

Learn About Student Stafford Loans

Student loans are the most widely used form of financial aid. These loans are backed by the Federal Government to guarantee low-interest rate loans.

View complete information:
go to Federal Student Loans

view our Summary Loan Chart of available student loans

student financial aid checklist

Graduates Can Use the PLUS Loan

Graduates and professional students now qualify under the PLUS loan program to borrow up to the full cost of education. Deferment plans are available.

We have information about the GradPLUS loan:
view GradPLUS Loans

view our Summary Loan Chart of available PLUS loans

student financial aid checklist

See How Parents Can Help

Parents of undergraduate students can assist with their child's education by applying for the Federal PLUS loans.

We have information about PLUS loans:
view PLUS Loans

view our Summary Loan Chart of available student loans

student financial aid checklist

Private Loans and Other Alternative Financing

Most financial aid awards do not cover the full cost of education. Many students are turning to private education loans and other alternative financing to finance their education.

These loans are not subject to Federal Government review and processing. You can get your money in as little as 5 business days from receipt of your completed application.

See what Private Loans are available:
view Private Loans

view our Summary Loan Chart of available student loans

student financial aid checklist

Home Equity Loans

Parents or students with equity value in their home can use home equity loan to pay for college. Funds can be borrowed as they are needed — not all at once under most other loan programs.

For more information: view our home equity section

student financial aid checklist

The Banker Home Equity Line of Credit (BLOC)

Parents or students with steady working income can use the BLOC to manage their money and fund education expenses. The program benefits those with positive discretionary income that helps to keep funding costs low.

View product demo: introduction page and slide demo

student financial aid checklist

Finding the Right Lender

When its time to submit your application for Federal and Private Education financing, our lending partners can process your application quickly for Stafford, PLUS, and Private Education Loans.

Apply for Financial Aid: click here

student financial aid checklist

Managing Your Money

Money will be tight during school. You want to control spending and avoid unnecessary debt. View our recommendation on how to manage student funds while attending college.

Money management tips: click here

student financial aid checklist

Building Your Credit

Starting school brings on many new responsibilities like building a strong credit report and managing your credit payments. This will benefit you in the future for:

  • buying a home
  • finding a good career
  • keeping lending costs down
  • perhaps starting a business

We have complete credit and debt management tips including budgeting monthly expenses:
link to the ABCs of credit management

student financial aid checklist

Saving for College

Though it might be too late for the upcoming student, it is not too late for the other children in your family — or even yourself if your plans have yourself returning to school.

There are some interest savings strategies that can benefit you.

For detailed information:
link to our College Savings Center

student financial aid checklist

Consolidating Student Loans

Don't forget that when you graduate from school, you can consolidate your federal loans into one single billing at repayment terms that fit your budget.

For detailed information:
view our Student Consolidation Center

Keep track of your student loans, scholarships and other financial aid for future reference and need:
download our aid tracking worksheet