Checklist for Financial Aid Requirements & Applications

Around junior year of high school, you should start to look into your federal, state, and college financial aid applications and requirements so you can apply for all the financial aid you need with ease! This guide will cover the requirements and steps to apply for financial aid, including income and FAFSA®.

Image Courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Application Types & Common Requirements for Financial Aid 📋

Many financial aid applications have the same or similar requirements since they are usually dependent on your and your parents’ income, assets, citizenship, and other components. To learn more about the basics of financial aid check out everything you need to know about financial aid.

1. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) 🇺🇸

  • Fill out the FAFSA® to be eligible to receive aid from the United States Department of Education.
  • The FAFSA® requires you to have your family’s (if you are a dependent) identification and financial information. This worksheet will help you determine what you will need when filling out the real FAFSA®.
  • You can start filling out the FAFSA® during October of your senior year.
  • If you need more assistance understanding the FAFSA®, this how-to guide from the Center for New York City Affairs can be accessed in 10 different languages and makes the FAFSA® much easier to understand.
  • Also check out these guides for an introduction to FAFSA® and how to apply to FAFSA®.

2. Financial Aid Provided by Colleges 🏫

  • Many colleges provide some aid for admitted students.
  • Financial aid may be evaluated based on your CSS profile (non-federal aid), which many private colleges use to assess need.

3. State Financial Aid 🏡

  • Most states have financial aid options for high school students entering college.
  • You can see what your state offers for aid and grants by visiting the NASFAA website and clicking on your state on the map.
  • Some state applications require you to have a household income lower than a certain threshold.

What to Have Ready When Applying ✔️

Make sure to have each of these items handy when applying for aid!

1. Social Security Card 📇

  • You’ll need your social security number (SSN) when applying for most financial aid programs to verify your identity.
  • If you are not a US citizen, you will also need your Alien Registration Number.

2. Tax Forms 🧾

  • Financial aid forms usually require you to have your parents’ and even your tax returns and/or W-9 forms to report the requested information on the form.
  • Some forms may have the option to link tax forms through the IRS DRT (data retrieval tool), if you are eligible, for ease in transferring most W-9 information.

3. Bank Statements 🏦

  • Aid applications often require you to report your parents’ current amount of money in savings and checking accounts in their names and how much they possess in cash at the time of the application.

4. Investment Records 📈

  • Applications often require a dollar amount of the value of investments like stocks, bonds, and real estate (besides the house you live in).

5. Untaxed Income Records 📨

  • Untaxed income includes things like child support payments, workers comp, disability benefits, etc.
  • It excludes things like child tax credits, foster care payments, earned income credits, etc.

Tips & Tricks 💎

Dos and Don’ts of applying for aid!

  • DO Refer to other financial aid resources on Fiveable for a more comprehensive overview of other topics involving financial assistance for college.
  • DO Remember to always keep an open mind before, during, and after applying for financial aid.
  • The financial aid you receive might be a determining factor if you are accepted into multiple colleges and need to decide between them. Keep in mind how important this is to you when considering applying early action or early decision.
  • DON'T panic if you don’t receive as much assistance as you had hoped for. There are usually other ways to receive the money you need like asking your college to reconsider the amount you’re receiving directly from them or by taking out a federal or private student loan.
  • Check out this guide that explains how to start your scholarship search and tips on how to get scholarships.
  • DO Let your parents help you with finding the info you need to fill out your application. We all know parents can be a buzzkill when it comes to stuff that has to do with being independent but just sit down with them to make sure you don’t miss something on an application.
  • DON'T let the amount of aid you receive or don’t receive define how valuable you are. Assistance amount is just another number given to you based on things you ultimately won’t be able to control.

Guide Outline

Check out these other guides that you might need.