How to Apply for Financial Aid?


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For availing any kind of financial help to pay for your college, you are required to fill up the financial aid application forms. These forms include the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, and certain other forms that are required by the colleges and universities.


The FAFSA is the most sought after financial aid form, as the federal government, the state government and almost all the colleges and universities use it to allot the need-based financial aid to the student.

Related:Gathering the documents beforehand is important!

  • One cannot avail the low-cost federal education loans without using the FAFSA.

  • Irrespective of the amount of aid that one had received during the previous year(s), he/she should file the FAFSA every year. The FAFSA undergoes minute changes every now and then, and thus it may affect the amount of aid you receive.

  • One can file the FAFSA earliest by January 1 of the senior year in the high school and each year in the college, and everybody should try to fill it as soon as possible.

  • The FAFSA cannot be filed before January 1 of the senior year, as it takes into account the income information from the prior tax year.

  • One can use the FAFSA to apply for the financial aid, even for the graduate and professional schools.

  • The FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) is the most efficient way to file the form, as it contains certain extra features like, built-in edit checks which helps you omit common errors, and intelligent skip-logic which helps you filter out the irrelevant questions.

Importance of the FAFSA

Filling the FAFSA requires you to use the Income Information for the prior tax year, and using this information, the FAFSA calculates the money, which a family can afford to pay for their child’s education (known as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC)). The EFC determines one’s eligibility for various need-based financial aid. Usually, the actual cost that one family has to accommodate for their child’s education is higher than the calculated EFC.

Related:A step-by-step guide to successfully creating a FAFSA account.


Year of attending the College (School Year) FAFSA DEADLINES Specific year’s Income Information
July 1, 2015 - June 30,2016 Jan 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016 2014
July 1, 2016 - June 30,2017 Jan 1, 2016 - June 30, 2017 2015
July 1,2017 - June 30, 2018 Oct 1, 2016 - June 30, 2018 2015
July 1,2018 - June 30,2019 Oct 1,2017 - June 30, 2019 2016

It is believed that filling the FAFSA in between January and March of the senior year, fetches you more financial aid as compared to other times. The above table provides us an overview of the FAFSA deadlines from the year 2015 to 2019, and also the Income Information that you will need to use to fill up the FAFSA. Let’s analyze the table and understand through examples.

For a student attending the college for school year July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, it is important for him to file the FAFSA earliest by January 1, 2015 and latest by June 30, 2016, and he/she will have to use the Income information for the year 2014.

Similarly, for the school year July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, one must file the FAFSA in between January 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and use the Income Information for the year 2015, and so on.

Related:Student Demographic information Section: All you need to know

What follows the FAFSA?

One week after filing the FAFSA online, and two weeks after filling the paper version of the FAFSA, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which will contain information, such as, the student’s EFC and an estimate of the need-based financial aid that the student has qualified for. A copy of the SAR, known as Institutional Student Information Report (ISIR) is sent to the colleges that you had listed on the FAFSA.

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Other lessons on FAFSA

FAFSA Related Post

Creating The FAFSA Account
Determining the Dependancy
Filing The FAFSA

Useful Resources

Signing the FAFSA
FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions
Parent Tax Status for the FAFSA