beginning of content:

The basics for helping students and families

A large number of students who qualify for financial aid do not receive it simply because they fail to fill out the necessary forms.

Types of financial aid applications

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): Students must complete this online form to receive federal student aid. Most colleges require it. The FAFSA is free and it doesn’t take long to complete. Students should understand the importance of this application and plan accordingly. The FAFSA is available on Oct. 1 every year.

CSS Profile: Some colleges use this College Board–sponsored form to determine who is awarded their institutional aid. The CSS Profile is available on Oct. 1 every year.

State forms: Some colleges require state forms, and some states require in-state applicants to apply for state aid using a state aid form. For example, in order to receive a Bright Futures scholarship, Florida students need to complete the Florida form. If your state institutions require a state form, make sure your students know that it is different from the FAFSA.

Finally, about half of all colleges require an institutional form, which students can obtain from the college itself. Usually, this is a fairly short form.


  • October: Students can begin filing the FAFSA, which is required by most colleges.
  • February: Many colleges have priority deadlines this month — urge students to apply by the priority deadline.
  • Late February and March: Colleges may call you to ask questions about your students who have special circumstances.
  • End of March: Admission notifications are mailed.
  • April: Students weigh offers of admission and compare aid awards.
  • May 1: Students must tell all colleges whether they are attending or not and make deposits.