How do I get Federal Student Aid?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2019
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If you live in the United States and wish to receive federal student aid, you should ensure that the school or schools of your choice participate in federal financial aid programs, complete the appropriate paperwork, and submit it to the school's financial aid office. To receive federal student aid, you must complete a form known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) along with additional applications provided by your school. If you wish to receive student loans, you will likely be required to complete additional applications for any loans for which you are eligible. If you receive federally guaranteed student loans as part of your financial aid package, you typically must complete student loan counseling prior to their disbursement.

Prior to applying for admission to schools, it is a good idea to find out whether they participate in federal student aid programs. Not all schools offer federal financial aid to their students. So if you believe that you will need such aid, any school you apply to will either have to offer federal financial aid or be able to cover the cost of your education through other sources, such as grants and scholarships.


Typically, school websites indicate whether students are eligible for federal student aid, but it is a good idea to double check and find out which student aid programs the school offers to students. When it is time for you to apply for federal student aid, you will typically be asked to complete the FAFSA along with a separate in-house application and perhaps an application for state-based educational funding. While the FAFSA can help your school determine whether you are eligible for federal student aid, its in-house application can help the financial aid office determine whether you are eligible for private educational funding.

Depending on your financial situation, you may be eligible for several types of financial aid, including Pell grants, work study, and student loans. In many cases, your federal student aid money will be sent, or disbursed, directly to your school, which will first deduct the cost of your tuition, fees, and, if you are living on campus, room and board, before making the balance available to you. If you receive student loans, you will typically be expected to complete an educational program that explains your repayment obligations. In some cases, it is possible to complete this program online, though your school may also make in-person student loan counseling available.


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