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Give your students the best shot at all forms of financial aid

Make sure your students know that it may be either required or advisable to fill out state and institutional financial aid forms as well as the federal form.

State forms

Some states have developed their own financial aid forms that are used in the awarding of state grants. Information about the programs that are funded based on the form, as well as the forms themselves, can be found on your state's higher education website.

If your state has a financial aid form, make sure your students know that it is different from  the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — the federal form. "I tell my students that yes, they have to fill out both," says Vivian Fiallo, an experienced college counselor.

The state form is usually shorter than the FAFSA, and many states ask that the student file the FAFSA before completing the state form. Students who file the FAFSA online are automatically directed to their state form. Students who file a paper FAFSA need to send away for a copy of the state form. Many states supply both online and paper formats for their applications.

Be sure students know the deadline, if any, for the state form. A list of states that have their own forms, along with the filing deadline or priority date for those forms, is provided in our Getting Financial Aid, published annually.

Institutional forms

Many colleges have their own financial aid forms that applicants either must, or should, fill out. The college may use the information gathered from these forms to determine who qualifies for special college scholarships. For example, a college that requires all students to have a computer might use its own form to determine which students need assistance in funding the computer.
Some colleges ask students applying early decision and athletes the college is recruiting to fill out an institutional form. This lets the college make an approximation of the family's estimated family contribution (EFC) and decide what financial aid package to offer.

Advise your students to find out whether a college has its own financial aid form and what the deadline is. The form will be much simpler and shorter than the FAFSA.