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Financial Aid Tip Sheets

We've upgraded! Our most popular tip sheets can now be found in our interactive, student-friendly downloadable guide Filing the FAFSA®.

Already know exactly what you're looking for? Click on a link below to jump to the tip sheet link.

Introduction to the FAFSA

This is a great place to start if you're filing the FAFSA for the first time (or if it's been a while since you've filed). What it is, what it's for, and what you'll need to file.

Understanding the FAFSA

This tip sheet tackles the who, what, when, where, and why questions to give you a better understanding of the FAFSA.

General Eligibility Requirements for Federal Student Aid

Wondering if you're eligible for federal student aid? This tip sheet spells out the basic requirements.

Strategies for Increasing Financial Aid for College

Learn about how you and your family can position income and assets to increase your eligibility for need-based aid.

How to Appeal for More Financial Aid

Sometimes the financial aid award letter is less than a student needs to cover their college expenses. Learn the process for appealing for more financial aid.

Commonly Asked Questions

We get a lot of questions from students like you. Here are simple answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE

Understand what the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE is, and when you may need to file this application.


Filing the FAFSA online can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes for your application to be processed. To file online, you'll need an FSA ID. We explain what it is, how to get one, and why your parents may need one as well.

Am I a Dependent or Independent Student?

Students come from a variety of backgrounds and living situations. Sometimes it's not obvious who is a dependent and who is an independent student. This tip sheet helps to clarify.

Who Is Considered a Parent for the FAFSA?

Dependent students need to report the financial information for their parents. But who is considered a parent when it comes to filing the FAFSA? We address many of the most common living situations to help you figure out whose information you need to provide when filing.

Mistakes to Avoid When Filing the FAFSA

Filing the FAFSA can be a little overwhelming, especially if it's your first time. We've highlighted some of the most common mistakes that can delay the processing of your application.

Loan Options for Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students have a lot of options when it comes to choosing student loans. Compare the different types of loans available to determine which is the best fit for you.

Loan Options for Graduate Students

Graduate students have several loan options to choose from, and each comes with its own set of pros and cons. See what student loans are available to help figure out which type will work for you.

Factors That Affect the Expected Family Contribution

This tip sheet helps explain how income, assets, and the number of children in college impacts how the expected family contribution is calculated.

How Is My Expected Family Contribution Calculated?

This tip sheet explains the formulas used for the FAFSA (federal methodology) and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (institutional methodology) for calculating the expected family contribution.

Impact of College Savings on Student Financial Aid

Tips on how to structure college savings to minimize impact on eligibility for need-based financial aid.

Private Student Loan Options

If you've exhausted your options for federal student aid, scholarships, and grants, and still need additional funds to pay for your education, you may need to explore your private student loan options. This tip sheet breaks down some of the major differences between the two types of loans.

College Packing List

A checklist compiled by real students of items you'll need in your dorm room or apartment. They know what to bring (because they forgot half of these things when packing themselves).

Colleges, universities, non-profit organizations and other educational access agencies are permitted to print, share or to link to these tip sheets, provided that students and their families are not charged any fees for access to the tip sheets and the tip sheets remain unmodified. The copyright notices must remain on the tip sheets and the tip sheets must be attributed to the source.

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