Determining your eligibility for need-based aid
The federal government provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work study funds to students each year. In order to get that money, you must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly called the FAFSA.
Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and easier than ever, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.
In addition, Washington State and many colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid. Submit a free application for federal student aid.
Your financial need is the difference between the amount it will cost you to go to school (cost of attendance) and the amount of money that you and your family are judged able to pay (expected family contribution).
Your expected family contribution will not vary much from school to school. However, each school has a different cost of attendance. Therefore, your financial need, or the amount of aid for which you qualify, may vary from school to school.
Colleges and universities use the FAFSA to determine your expected family contribution and your financial need. The FAFSA considers your family income and assets, family size, and number of family members in college.
The calculation, which determines eligibility for aid, is complicated. The only way to find out if you are eligible for any financial aid is to apply.
The application process is not difficult and help is available throughout the process. If you have questions about the FAFSA, contact your college or university financial aid office, or call toll-free 1-800-433-3243 (1-800-4FEDAID).
How to Apply
1. Complete the FAFSA - To apply for federal financial aid and most state aid programs, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is available online at www.fafsa.gov. Paper forms are available from high school guidance offices, college financial aid offices, and public libraries; or call: 1.800.4FEDAID. Apply as soon as possible AFTER October 1, for the upcoming academic year. Do not wait until you are admitted to apply.
2. Review your Student Aid Report - One to four weeks after you submit your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). Review it carefully for accuracy and make corrections, if necessary.
3. Contact prospective colleges and universities - Contact the financial aid offices of prospective schools as soon as possible about application procedures and deadlines. Ask about financial aid opportunities, including tuition waivers and scholarships, and about their student budgets.
4. Follow instructions and meet all deadlines - If your FAFSA or other financial aid applications are late or incomplete, you may not be considered for all of the aid programs available. Check financial aid priority deadlines at selected colleges and universities in Washington. Follow up promptly on any requests for additional information.
5. Research scholarships - Check to see if local organizations or your employer (or parent’s employer) offer scholarships. Visit free scholarship search services on the Internet. For more information, visit our scholarships page.
6. Evaluate financial aid award letters - Schools will send you award letters with details of your financial aid package - usually a combination of grants, loans and work study. Compare the financial aid awards carefully. You may be required to either accept or decline your award by a specific date.
7. Keep good records - Make photocopies of your applications and supporting information. To track important information and dates, you may want to keep a financial aid notebook or worksheet for quick reference.
For more information
Contact the Washington Student Achievement Council's Student Financial Assistance office:
Toll Free: 1-888-535-0747