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Student Financial Aid—What Is It? How Do I Get It?

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There are many types of financial aid available to help you pay for college. As you prepare for a new school year, it's important to understand all of the financial aid options available to you.

Keep reading to learn more about the different options—grants, scholarships, work study, federal loans, and private loans. You'll also see how getting financial aid begins with completing the FAFSA®.

Types of Financial Aid

There are three types of financial aid—free money, like a grant or scholarship, work-study, and loans, money that you receive now to pay for your education and are expected to repay with interest after you graduate. Before you accept any financial aid, you'll want to know how it will affect you down the road.

Completing Your FAFSA

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the first steps you should take to get funding for college. It examines your annual income, or your family's, to determine how much funding you receive in the form of grants, work-study, or federal loans.

Before completing the FAFSA, you need to have tax information for yourself, and possibly your parent(s), for the previous year. For more information on preparing to fill out your FAFSA, visit Federal Student Aid's website.

What Happens Next?

After you fill out your FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR). This report includes information about what you and your family are expected to contribute to your education expenses. Look over your SAR carefully to ensure there were no mistakes on your FAFSA. If you notice a mistake, Federal Student Aid has instructions on how to correct any errors.

Your school reviews your SAR, and sends you a financial aid award package. This includes information about different scholarships, grants, work study, and federal loans you're eligible for in the upcoming year. Review your award package carefully before accepting any aid to be sure you understand how each type of aid would impact you later on. Contact your financial aid office with any questions you have.

For More Information

The financial aid office at your school is one of your best resources for information about paying for college. They can also help you fill out your FAFSA and find reputable scholarship search engines online. To find out more about funding your education, check out these videos.

Video: Complete Your FAFSA

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Video: Review your award letter

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Video: Understand your loan options

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