• To apply for federal aid, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The deadlines vary by college, so apply early.
    • You will need to determine if you qualify to apply as a dependent or as part of a family unit. The FAFSA instructions will help you determine which is appropriate for your scenario.
    • When filling out the FAFSA, you will need all the financial information – income, tax returns, investments, etc. – for yourself and your family (if you’re applying as part of a family unit).
  • As part of the FAFSA, you will choose up to 10 colleges to receive your application results.
  • A few weeks after completing the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) in the mail and results from the colleges you selected. The SAR will tell you what kind of aid – and how much – you can receive.
  • The colleges you selected on the FAFSA may require you to fill out a College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile, which allows you to apply for non-federal aid. Sometimes you can fill this out up to a year prior to the academic year for which you’re requesting aid. There is typically a fee to submit this form, so you may want to narrow down your list of possible colleges before submitting.
  • Start researching scholarships so your college funding is not fully dependent loans. There are many search engines and databases to choose from, such as comCollege-Scholarships.comFastweb.com and others. Your selected college may have additional school-based opportunities.
  • Talk to the professionals in the financial aid office at your chosen college. They are sure to have experience in determining the best course of action for someone in your situation.

Once they’ve explored all “free money” and “low-cost” options, students may sometimes have a “gap” in their funding. When it’s time to look into loans, seek those with zero origination or prepayment fees, low interest rates, flexible deferment and repayment options. A simplified application process is a bonus here, too. Verify that the loan is certified through the school, which means the school verifies the amount you need to borrow to prevent you from borrowing too much or too little. Funds should be distributed directly to the school and any difference is paid to the borrower for books, transportation, technology and other necessities.

APGFCU partners with Sallie Mae to offer affordable and flexibile private loan options. Learn more.