Do You Need Money for College or Career School?
What is federal student aid?
It’s money from the federal government that helps you pay for college, career school, or graduate school expenses. Federal student aid is available through grants, work-study funds, and loans. It can help you cover the cost of tuition/fees, room & board, books, supplies, and transportation.
Who gets federal student aid?
Every student who meets certain eligibility requirements can get some type of federal student aid. Some of the most basic eligibility requirements for students are that you must:
- demonstrate financial need (for most programs);
- be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen;
- have a valid Social Security number (some exceptions apply);
- be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program;
- be enrolled at least half-time (for most programs); and
- maintain satisfactory academic progress in college, career school, or graduate school.
For the full list of eligibility, visit: StudentAid.gov/eligibility
How do I apply for aid?
You need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. In this form, you provide information about you and your finances; this information gets sent to colleges of your choice. Then, your college uses your FAFSA data to determine your federal aid eligibility and if you are accepted and eligible to receive aid, they will send you an aid offer (an offer of money in the form of grants/loans etc.). Many states and colleges use FAFSA data to award their own aid (college scholarships).
Students and parents will need an FSA ID (account username and password) to sign the form through the mobile app and online. You’ll also use your FSA ID to access information about your financial aid on U.S. Department of Education websites. You can create an FSA ID in advance or while you fill out the FAFSA form. To find out more about the FSA ID, visit StudentAid.gov/help-center/answers/article/fsa-id
When should I apply?
Each October, the FAFSA form is available for the next school year. You’ll need to reapply for aid every year you are in school.
Sparks High School hosts FAFSA Workshop Events after school in February where the services of experts from local financial aid offices help students and families fill out the FAFSA form. It’s a good idea to create your FSA ID before hand and gather the following documents:
- Your Social Security number (it’s important that you enter it correctly on the FAFSA form!)
- Your parents’ Social Security numbers if you are a dependent student
- Your driver’s license number if you have one
- Your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen
- Federal tax information, tax documents, or tax returns including IRS W-2 information, for you (and your spouse, if you are married), and for your parents if you are a dependent student:
- IRS 1040
- Foreign tax return or IRS 1040NR
- Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau
- Records of your untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits, for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student
- Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks and bonds and real estate (but not including the home in which you live); and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student
Here is the QR Code to RSVP for the 2023-2024 FAFSA Workshops:
I completed the FAFSA® form. Now what?
After you submit your FAFSA form, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that summarizes the data you submitted. If you provided a valid email address in your application, you’ll receive an email with instructions on how to access an online copy of your SAR within three days (if you apply at fafsa.gov or through the myStudentAid mobile app) or three weeks (if you mail in a paper FAFSA form). When you receive your SAR, review it to make sure you didn’t make any mistakes on your FAFSA form.
- If you don’t need to make any changes to the information on your SAR, just keep it on your records.
- To find out how to correct mistakes or make updates to your FAFSA form, visit StudentAid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/ review-and-correct or contact the school to which you are applying.
The information in your SAR will be provided for the schools you listed on your FAFSA form (search for your college’s FAFSA School Code here). You will receive an aid offer from the schools at which you were accepted for admission.
What’s an "aid offer" and how much aid will I get?
If you apply for admission to a college or career school you listed on your FAFSA form, that school will get your FAFSA information. The school will calculate your aid and send you an aid offer (often electronically).
Most schools will wait to send you an aid offer only after they accept you for admission. The aid offer will tell you how much aid you’re eligible to receive at that school and will include the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive from federal, state, private, and school sources. This combination of help from different sources is your financial aid package.
How much aid you receive depends on some factors, including
- cost of attendance (for each school);
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC)—the EFC does not represent a dollar amount but, instead, it’s a number used to calculate how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive based on your FAFSA information;
- year in school; and
- enrollment status (e.g., full-time, half-time, etc.).
You can compare school aid offers and see which school is most affordable once financial aid is taken into account. Contact the school’s financial aid office if you have any questions about the aid being offered to you. For more information on how aid is calculated, visit StudentAid.gov/how-calculated
How will I receive my aid?
Your college or career school—not the U.S. Department of Education—will distribute your aid. In most cases, your federal student aid will be applied directly to your school account. The financial aid staff at your school will explain exactly how and when your aid will be disbursed (paid out).
What else do I need to remember when applying for federal student aid?
Only borrow what you need and what you can afford to pay back.
Your FAFSA information has to be correct to ensure that you receive your aid promptly and in the right amount. Always respond to (or act upon) any correspondence your school sends you—and meet all deadlines.
Contact the school if you’re interested in school or state grants.
Free Help Is Available
Free help is available any time during the application process.
Online help is available while you complete your application at fafsa.gov. You can also get free information and help from your school counselor, the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend, or the U.S. Department of Education at StudentAid.gov
You should never have to pay for help!