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Getting Financial Aid Starts with FAFSA
As soon as you've wrapped up your college applications, you should plan to file your FAFSA.
FAFSA stands for "Free Application for Federal Student Aid" - but we like to think of it as "Financial Aid's First Step Always."
Step 1: Complete the FAFSA
You can fill out the FAFSA online at fafsa.gov. To complete and submit your FAFSA online, you must create a U.S. Department of Education FSA ID. The FSA ID will serve as your electronic signature. Create an FSA ID at fafsa.gov
You can file the FAFSA after October 1. Try to file as early as possible because award deadlines vary from school to school and state to state. Pay attention to your colleges' financial aid deadlines and other required financial aid forms.
Step 2: Student Aid Report (SAR)
After you file the FAFSA, you will be able to view your Student Aid Report (SAR) that confirms the information you filed. If you provided an e-mail address on your FAFSA, you will receive an email with a link to an online copy of your SAR. If you did not provide a valid email address on your FAFSA, the Social Security Number you included in your FAFSA did not match the one on file for you with the Social Security Administration, or you did not sign your FAFSA, you will receive either a SAR or a SAR Acknowledgement via postal mail. Typically, you will be able to access your SAR within two weeks of filing your FAFSA. Check your SAR carefully for errors - any problems with your SAR can make a big difference in the aid you receive. Keep a copy of the SAR for your records.
If you haven't received your Student Aid Report four weeks after completing the FAFSA, you should contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
Step 3: Expected Family Contribution
You will see an amount known as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) immediately after submitting your FAFSA online. Your EFC is regarded as a measure of your family’s ability to contribute to your education and can determine eligibility for need-based aid.This figure is sent to your state's scholarship agency, as well as to the colleges you listed on the FAFSA so they can determine the size of your aid award. You can still get certain loans without a FAFSA, such as private loans, but you could miss out on some of the best loan deals and other aid if you don't file.
The PNC Education Loan Center offers a variety of credit-based private loans that help finance the Expected Family Contribution amount. Send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact our customer service center to speak with a student loan specialist at 1-800-762-1001, Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm Eastern time.
Step 4: The Financial Aid Award Letter
The next part of the financial aid process begins when you receive your financial aid award letters from your top schools. Award letters indicate how much funding and what types of aid you're eligible to receive from each school. They can include grants, scholarships, work study programs and eligibility for federal student loans. Compare your award letters to understand the financial impact they might have.
For More Information:
FAFSA on the Web
The government offers a detailed, question-by-question guide to filling out the paper and online FAFSA.
Important Legal Disclosures and Information
You are encouraged to explore all scholarship, grant and federal borrowing options before applying for a private loan.
PNC does not provide accounting, tax or legal advice. Any calculators provided are intended for educational and estimation purposes only, and their accuracy is not guaranteed. The calculators, and any results displayed, do not constitute the advice of, or reflect actual products, services, rates and/or terms available from PNC Bank or its affiliates, and nothing contained in the calculators shall constitute an offer or solicitation of a product or service by PNC Bank or its affiliates.
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