Resources for Financial Aid

Free Online Resources to Learn About College Financial Aid

Resources for Financial Aid

For many parents and high school students, this might be the first year they are dealing with the sometimes overwhelming world of college financial aid. Even for parents who already have students in college, changes and updates can make it feel like you’re going back to square one. Here are some free online resources that can help students and parents safely navigate the college financial aid waters.

The Federal Student Aid (FSA) Website

FSA is an office of the U.S. Department of Education. Their official website is packed with useful information, videos and tools that can help students and parents completely understand the college financial aid process. Easy to navigate, visitors start by clicking on the question that is at the top of their mind and following the site from there. Questions answered include:

  • How do I prepare for college?
  • What types of aid can I get?
  • Do I qualify for aid?
  • How do I apply for aid?
  • How do I manage my student loans?

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Website

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step toward getting federal college financial aid. Many states and colleges, and some private financial aid providers, may also use the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for additional financial aid. Applications for the next academic year should be available on this site in January 2015.

You must have an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA. The FSA ID can be used to sign into US Dept. of Ed sites like the FAFSA and studentloans.gov. 

U.S. Department of Education Publications

FSA provides many helpful resources such as publications, fact sheets, and online tools that can help you prepare and pay for college.

These resources are grouped around the following topics:

  • College Preparation and the Federal Student Aid Programs
  • FAFSA® Information
  • Student Loan Information
  • Consumer Protection

Hard copies of many of the publications are available for order from the U.S. Department of Education’s Publication Center (www.edpubs.gov) or by calling 1-877-4-ED-PUBS (1-877-433-7827).

FAFSA4caster

Not sure how you’re going to be able to pay for your child’s college education? The FAFSA4caster can help you understand your options. Simply provide some basic information and FSA will estimate your eligibility for federal student aid. Your estimate will be shown in the "College Cost Worksheet" where you can also provide estimated amounts of other student aid and savings that can go towards the college costs.

College Scholarship Search

It makes sense to find and apply for as many scholarships as you can. Scholarships don’t have to be repaid, so they can go a long way towards helping you pay for college. Merit-based scholarships are earned by meeting or exceeding standards set by the scholarship sponsor. Some scholarships may be based on financial need. Other scholarships are geared toward a particular groups of people, and some are available because of where you or your parents work, or because you come from a certain background.

Start searching for scholarships at the Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop page, where you can search more than 7,000 scholarships, fellowships, loans, and other financial aid opportunities.

When it comes to college financial aid, don’t try to do it alone. Use the resources listed here to get the information you need so you’ll be able to make smart financial decisions. Also be sure to sign up for the “Paying For College” newsletter, to make sure you receive all of the latest information on college financial aid.