Applying for financial aid is not unlike applying for admission to law school. And no less important. The checklist below outlines the forms you need to complete and the deadlines you need to meet in order to take advantage of the financial aid that is available to you.
A good way to begin this process is by reaching out to the financial aid office at the school you will be attending. No one will know more about your school's financial aid process and they will be able to guide you to ensure you don't miss deadlines or opportunities. Some questions you can ask to help you get started include:
- What types of financial aid are available? And, am I eligible for them?
- What are the required application procedures and forms?
- How and where do I obtain the application forms?
- Are there any school-based grants or scholarships that I can apply for?
- What are the application deadlines?
The Financial Aid Checklist
Use this list to guide you in applying for financial aid next year.
1. Make sure you have your 2017 income tax return handy.
- You should also save a copy in case your school requests it.
2. Complete and submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
- The FAFSA will be available on October 1, 2018 for the 2019-2020 academic year.
- Be sure to mark "yes" when asked if you will be a graduate or professional student, so you will be considered financially independent (meaning it is not assumed that you have parental financial support) by the federal government.
3. Check for, and submit, any other applications.
- Many schools require additional applications in order to be eligible for institutional grants, scholarships or other school-based aid.
4. Research all scholarship opportunities—remember, that's money you won't have to pay back.
- Numerous private and civic associations offer scholarships and grants. Check with your school to determine availability and eligibility requirements. And, then apply!
5. Apply for federal education loans.
- While most students will be able to borrow up to the full COA, less other aid through the federal loan programs, it is important to borrow only what you need. If you are not eligible for a particular loan program you are interested in, talk with your financial aid office to learn about other options that may be available to you.
6. Review Your Financial Aid Awards – and Accept “The One!”
- After you submit the necessary financial aid documents, and your school has completed its review, you will receive a financial aid award notice (or “letter”) containing information about the aid you are eligible to receive. Review each award letter you receive carefully. If you are applying to more than one school, review each award letter and compare the types and amount of aid at each school.