Applying for Federal financial aid can be right up there with preparing your tax return when it comes to stress-inducing paperwork. You generally cannot apply for financial aid without having completed your taxes actually. It really is quite straightforward while the process may seem overwhelming at first. The biggest sources of frustration will come from waiting until the last minute and not having the necessary information ready when you need it. This step-by-step guide will walk you through everything you need to know when it comes to applying for financial aid. The Federal Student Aid office (a division of the US Department of Education) has very little time to listen to excuses about why you didn’t get your forms in on time with so many students applying for financial aid. To ensure you’ll get the aid you need, you’ve got to respect the deadlines. The Federal FAFSA form, which is the basic platform on which all financial aid is built, is generally due by the end of June for the 2009-2010 school year will likely be at the end of June 2010. The deadlines are often much earlier in the year in case you plan on applying for aid from your state.

Applying for federal financial aid

The forms for Federal aid do not replace the need to fill out additional state forms in addition to this. Lastly, colleges and universities will often have unique deadlines and paperwork requirements for scholarships and programs that are unique to their school. You should start the financial aid process by buying a small accordion-style file folder. This will be perfect for keeping all your personal financial documents, completed FAFSA forms, loan agreements, award letters, etc. Just in case your computer crashes it would be a very wise idea to print out every email you send and receive, as well as every online form you complete. In case you ever need to have a dispute with an institution, these records will also come in handy. Make sure you keep this folder in a very safe place. This should not by lying around in a dorm room or on the back seat of a car. With all your private information, tax returns, Social Security numbers, etc., this folder is an identity thief’s dream come true. Each student is assigned a unique PIN number by the Department of Education. This PIN number is required to “sign” your online FAFSA application, as well as to access much of your information. It takes a minimum of 1-3 days to receive your PIN number once you request it. During this time, your information is verified with the Social Security Administration. It may take longer than usual in case your information does not match up.