Everything You Need to Know When Applying for Financial Aid


Financial aid is money to help pay for college!

Before beginning the FAFSA, you must apply for an FSA ID at StudentAid.gov. This will be used for all financial aid and used for your electronic signature on all financial aid documents. Write this down somewhere!
Remember that the FAFSA belongs to the student. The student needs to create an FSA ID using their personal information. They should use a personal e-mail account rather than a school e-mail account, as their current high school e-mail will be disabled after graduation.
When creating an FSA ID, the student will receive both an email and a text message to confirm their identity. The codes supplied in those messages are time sensitive and must be entered into the system to proceed. Please be sure your child is able to access this information while filling it out. In other words— do not attempt to do this while they are at school and have limited access to their e-mail and text messages. 
One parent needs to also create an FSA ID. Select the parent whose information will be used if the parents are no longer together. This parent will sign the FAFSA with their FSA ID once it is completed. If parents are married, select the parent who is  available to retrieve their confirmation codes while setting up the FSA ID. It does not need to be the parent with the most or least income. It just needs to be one parent. 
Pro Tip:  Take a manilla folder and label the inside left side with your child's name, label the inside right side with the parent who is signing. 
Next put the FSA ID username you created under the appropriate name and the password. 
The FSA ID process includes 4 security questions— trust me you will not remember the answers 3 years from now. Write them down! And YES, you will complete the FAFSA every year, but creating your FSA ID is a one-time event. 
List the questions with an abbreviation and then the answer.  For instance if the question is "What is the color of your first vehicle?" Notate the following: CAR Blue
I like to underline anything I capitalize.  The system is incredibly sensitive and known to lock people out for 3 days if you make several unsuccessful attempts. Using a folder like this and documenting your information and security questions will save you a lot of time later. Once you both have an FSA ID, you can go to https://studentaid.gov and begin the FAFSA.


FAFSA—this is the starting point for all financial aid. It is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is a government online form that is FREE to fill out.

  • You can fill out your FAFSA at https://studentaid.gov or http://fafsa.gov. Do NOT go to FAFSA.com—this is a site that charges you to submit your FAFSA under the guise that they are reviewing it!
  • The results of the FAFSA determine your Federal Financial Aid.
  • Federal Aid is just one portion of Financial Aid.
  • Colleges also have school funded aid. Some of it is based on your need, determined by the FAFSA. Other aid can be merit or association based, or any combination of requirements the school sets.

Who is Eligible?

  • You must have a high school diploma or GED;
  • Be a US citizen or eligible noncitizen
  • Have a valid social security number
  • Be registered with Selective Service — All men over 18 Must be registered! You can register at www.sss.gov
  • Be enrolled as a regular student in an eligible program
  • Be enrolled at least 1/2 time to be eligible for Direct Loan program funds
  • Sign statements stating that you are not in default on a federal student loan and
    will use federal student aid only for educational purposes
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college to continue to receive aid

What do you need to complete the FAFSA?

  • The students social security number and parents social security number for a dependent student. Students are typically considered dependent if they are under 24 years old, not married, without children and have not been emancipated.
  • Students driver's license number (if you have one)
  • Federal Tax information; tax returns, w-2's, records of untaxed income such as child support for student and parents for a dependent student

Starting the FAFSA

Once you have gathered the above information, you can begin by going to the FAFSA website https://studentaid.gov

  • You will need to enter your name and social security number exactly as it appears on your social security card.
  • You will create a password. This is your PIN. Write it down. You will need it to review or make any changes or to complete it again for the following year.
  • You will need your schools FAFSA code. You can include up to 10 schools. The codes can be found on the schools websites or on the FAFSA website.
  • You will supply financial information for the parent (s) you have lived with more during the past 12 months. If this parent is remarried, you must include the income of your stepparent as well. The exceptions to using step parent info is the question regarding parents' education level—only use birth or adoptive parents.
  • If you are considered a dependent, you must use your parents' information, even if you do not live with them.
  • You will sign your FAFSA with your PIN so it can be processed. You will receive an email confirmation. You will receive a Student A id Report (SAR) within 3 weeks. This will not indicate how much you will receive, it is merely a summary of the information that you provided. The schools you listed will later send you an Award Letter telling you what you are eligible for at their school— and that timeline differs between every school.

What is Financial Aid?

Financial Aid is comprised of several pieces. They each have different requirements. 

Federal student aid includes;

  • Grants— Grants are free government money that you do not need to pay back.
  • Loans— Federal student loans are low interest rate loans that you start paying back 6 months after you leave school. They are not credit based and do not require a cosigner. There are a few types of federal student loans. 
    • Direct Subsidized Student Loans are loans to students who demonstrate financial need. The US Department of Education pays the interest while you are still in school at least 1/2 time.
    • Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans are to students but no need is required. Interest accrues from the start of the loan.
    • Parent Plus Loans are loans made to parents of dependent students to help pay for education expenses that are not covered by other financial aid. These are credit based and as many as 50% of all parents are denied the loan. In that case the student is eligible for additional loan amounts.

Work Study programs are need based. The student typically will work on campus or off campus in a private non-profit or public agency. Work is part time and is pay is on an hourly basis. Students' academic schedule and academic progress is considered in scheduling hours.

Other Financial Aid

ScholarshipsMoney that does not need to be paid back. It is often merit based, on academics or athletic accomplishments. Athletic scholarships are only offered by NCAA Division I and II schools as well as NAIA schools. NCAA Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships. Occasionally, a school will use a formula of need and accomplishments to determine merit award eligibility. GPA and SAT/ACT scores are most often used in the calculation of the award amount.

High schools typically have a pool of money that they award in smaller scholarship amounts at the end of the year. Student's need to fill out a community scholarship application to be eligible. Community groups donate to these funds, and may help with the selection process. These scholarships are based on a student's involvement or leadership within the groups.

Private Student Loans— Loans made to students after you have exhausted all federal financial aid. These loans are usually at a higher interest rate, are credit based and require a cosigner. These loans do not have flexibility in repayment schedules and should be taken as a last resort. 


Private vs. Public School

How can a $40,000 Private school compete with a $20,000 Public school that relies on taxes to offset tuition costs? It is all in the Financial Aid package the student receives. Private Schools rely on alumni and donors to create a pool of scholarship money. It is most often distributed to those with academic merit and need first. These merit scholarships often bring the cost of a Private school to less than that of a public school.

Consider the following:
An Ohio high school student with a 3.5 GPA and 26 ACT score. He is in a family of 3. His mother is the sole provider with an income of $60,000 per year. His brother is also in college. There are no savings or assets available for college expenses.

The student is considering OSU at $29,022 and BW at $48,390.

Here is how the financial aid plays out at each school

The Ohio State University
Total cost of attendance: $29,022
Total grants and scholarships: $2,000
Total Cost to Family: $27,022

 Baldwin Wallace University
Total cost of attendance: $48,390
Total grants and scholarships: $21,000
Total Cost to Family: $27,390

Although the total cost of attendance to BW is significantly higher, it becomes a much more affordable when comparing total grants and scholarships.

If this is confusing or overwhelming, you are not alone. We can help you solve the puzzle of financial aid! Schedule your free consultation now to find out how KMAC can save YOU money!


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