How to apply for financial aid?

6 Steps to Conquering the Financial Aid Process

A private college education is an investment in your future that will pay off for a lifetime. There are resources available to put tuition within your reach. To take full advantage of those resources, follow the steps below. 

Step 1

Every college has different financial aid form requirements and deadlines. Check with each college’s nancial aid of ce or website to determine which forms need to be led to be considered for all types of financial aid. Here are the most common ones: 

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – Everyone applying for federal and most other financial aid must complete this free form, as early as possible. You and a parent, if you are their dependent, will each need to create an FSA ID to file the FAFSA. Click here for more information on the FAFSA.

NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) Application – For New York residents attending a college in the state, use this free form with the FAFSA to apply for a NYS TAP grant and to request payment of NYS scholarship awards. Complete the online TAP application by linking to it directly from your FAFSA Confirmation Page. Click here for more information on TAP  from the NYS Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) or call 888.NYSHESC. 

CSS PROFILE – Some colleges may ask applicants to file the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE® form to be considered for college-funded aid (the college’s own grants and scholarships). Click here to learn more about the CSS Profile or to file. Note: There is a fee for filing this form. 

College-specific financial aid applications – Some colleges may ask prospective students to complete the college’s own financial aid application to be considered for their college-funded grants, scholarships, and loans. Check with each college for application requirements and deadlines.

Step 2

Complete and file the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1. For those applying to being college in 2019-2020, use 2017 tax information. New York residents applying to colleges in the state should include a college in New York on their FAFSA to begin the application for a New York State TAP grant.

By filing the FAFSA, you will be considered for:

Click here for more information on financial aid from

Graduating student takes selfie at Alfred UniversityOn average, students at private colleges in New York borrow just $3,400 more than students at public colleges in New York. That's the total difference for four years of college.  

Step 3

After submitting the FAFSA online, you'll receive your Federal Student Aid Report (SAR) via email. Review the SAR and follow directions to correct any errors.

Step 4

Each college that accepts you for admission will send a financial aid award letter or "package." Each college's aid package may include a different combination of grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans to help meet college expenses. Compare each college's financial aid offer by determining the college's "net cost" -- just subtract the amount of all grants, scholarships, and student loan funding from the published tuition, fees, room and board. 

Step 5

Inform the college you've chosen to attend and formally accept the offer of admission and finanial aid. Usually, you'll have to do this by May 1. 

When reviewing the financial aid package from the college, be certain to pay attention to: 

  • Federal loans: The college will send instructions about the loan application process, which includes completion of a form called the Master Promissory Note (MPN) and an entrance counseling session in order to receive federal student loans (e.g, Direct Loans). It is important to keep track of how much you are borrowing and the loan repayment terms and conditions. Click here for more information on accepting federal financial aid. 
  • If you're a New York resident attending college in New York, follow up on the NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) grant. Click here for more information on TAP grants.

Step 6

Always keep in mind that financial aid isn't a one-time endeavor. There are conditions to keeping it, like required grades and coursework. Make sure to renew your financial aid each year, on time, to avoid losing it.