Paying for College with Federal Financial Aid

Students turn to federal financial aid to help with the rising cost of higher education.

You don’t have to be a CPA to realize the cost of higher education is, well, higher. According to the nonprofit website FinAid!, tuition increases average between 6 and 9 percent each year. These rising costs have students across the country asking, “How am I going to pay for this?”

Another option is to attend a community college that offers free education. These programs exist to help students afford higher education. Many students and families fall prey to the myth that they won’t qualify for aid. But in today’s world, many organizations help students, from a legitimate essay writing service to a grantmaking foundation that can also pay scholarships. So, there’s only one way to find out what federal aid you can receive — you have to apply.

What IS federal financial aid, exactly?

Federal financial aid is money for a student’s educational expenses, paid through grants and loan programs by the federal government. Grants are not paid back. Loans are. Except for some loan programs, eligibility is based in part on need.

Who is eligible for financial aid?

Eligibility may vary across programs, but these are the minimum requirements. An aid recipient must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen; must have a social security card and must comply with Selective Service registration. The recipient must also be admitted or enrolled as a regular student in a degree-seeking program. So remember, if you fail your exams or write a poorly written admissions essay, grants will not help. Whether you have any doubts about your writing abilities, it is better to consult a college application essay writing service. To maintain eligibility, the student must maintain satisfactory academic progress.

When should I apply?

The deadline for financial aid applications may vary, depending on where you live and what college or university you plan to attend. Research your deadlines and apply as early as possible. High school students should apply in January or February of their senior year.

How do I apply?

The best way to apply for federal financial aid is online. You need to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, through the Federal Student Aid website. To do this, you need to gather some basic information first. You and your parents both need to apply for a personal identification number from the Federal Student Aid PIN website. This PIN will be your secure digital signature. You also need to have your social security number and your most current tax returns. When you’re ready, complete the FAFSA online. Include the school codes for any school you are interested in attending. That way, your FAFSA information will be sent directly to those schools. They will then determine your eligibility for local, state, and institutional aid.

What happens after I submit the FAFSA?

In three to five days, you will receive an email and a link to your Student Aid Report, or SAR. Your SAR contains your expected family contribution or EFC. This is the number used to determine your eligibility for financial aid. Using your FAFSA information and your EFC, the schools that received your SAR will prepare a financial aid package for you. If you have a high need, your package may include grants and subsidized student loans. With subsidized loans, you don’t have to pay interest on the money while you’re in school. If you have less need, your package may include unsubsidized student or parent loans.

No matter where you think you fall on the need spectrum, federal financial aid can reduce your out-of-pocket costs. It makes education accessible to everyone. But to get help throughout your college education, you have to be a good student! Colleges usually make it easy and comfortable for students to get an education. You can even find essay help free! The most important thing to extend a grant is academic performance. So it’s all in your hands. Prospective and current college students should file the FAFSA every year and take advantage of the grants and low-interest loans that help lower the cost of higher education.


The FAFSA is always free. Avoid websites or services that offer to help you On Signature Generator file the FAFSA for a fee.

Keep your PIN secure. This is your digital signature and should never be shared with anyone.

If you need additional help, contact your high school counselor, or a financial aid adviser at your local community college or university. Many of these institutions offer free financial aid workshops.

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