Typically, I recommend everyone to fill out the FAFSA - www.fafsa.ed.gov. This is the first and easiest option for federal grants and federal loans. Federal loans use your past income for eligibility- for example 2016 taxes are used for the upcoming 18/19 aid year. Credit scores are not a factor in this decision- this is only a factor in applications for private loans. Private loans will almost always use your credit score and depending on your situation, you may need a co-signer to get a private loan.
Depending on your age, you may or may not need to input your parents information on the FAFSA. The Department of Education has the age of 24 as the default for independence. What this means: if you are under 24, put your parents on the FAFSA unless mitigating circumstances exist. Ages 24 and older, use your own information. You do not have to use your parents information.
Generally speaking, the federal Pell grant uses your income and household size as the two biggest variables to see if you are eligible to receive it. The further you are away from the poverty line suited to you (IE single, family, etc), the less Pell Grant you are eligible. In most cases, everyone is eligible for subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Keep in mind that when you fill out the FAFSA, you are seeing what Aid you are eligible for from the Pell grant and the federal loans. There is a lot of information about the FAFSA- for more info, you can visit www.studentaid.ed.gov.
Additionally, depending on the institution that you have applied for, they could have institutional aid. This applies for most four year private schools so it may be worth making an appointment to see your schools financial aid advisor to talk about that schools additional loans and scholarships. Scholarship applications at colleges and universities are usually due in the March- May time frame before the Fall semester begins. So the earlier the better.
Lastly, scholarships are a big thing. One of my favorite websites is www.fastweb.com. After filling out general information about yourself and your school, you will be linked to scholarship applications that fit your criteria. This website is definitely worth taking a look at.
Meghan recommends the following next steps:
- Do the FAFSA! Www.fafsa.ed.gov
- Check institutional aid and scholarships
- Check out www.fastweb.com