The Process to Determine Federal Student Financial Aid

To determine how much federal student aid (scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans) a student is eligible for, the student/parent must complete the following three steps each year the student attends college.

  1.  Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal student aid is generally awarded based on a student’s financial need with the exception of certain loan products (unsubsidized Stafford loans). All students should complete and submit the FAFSA because it is required for all federal aid. To determine a student’s financial need, the FAFSA asks questions about income and assets that could be used to pay for the student’s college education. The FAFSA cannot be completed until after January 1 ofthe year the student expects to start college. The U.S. Department of Education uses this information to calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
  2. Review the Student Aid Report (SAR). The result of the FAFSA is the SAR. It contains the EFC calculation for the student. The SAR is transmitted to the colleges that the student/parent has identified on the FAFSA. The SAR also lists the student’s outstanding federal loans.
  3. Review the College’s Financial Aid Award Letter. Once the student has been admitted, the college provides a financial aid award letter to the student that lists the grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans for which the student is eligible. The letters vary in the amount of information provided to the student and parent and it is provided in a format of the college’s choice. This award is based on the college’s cost of attendance (all direct and indirect expenses, including tuition, fees, room and board, books, transportation, and supplies) less the EFC.
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