1. THE FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form that determines eligibility for almost all
types of federal, state and institutional student aid, including the Pennsylvania State Grant Program. If you are a dependent
student, you will need to include both your and your parents’ information. Families can submit a paper FAFSA or complete
the form online.
You may access the FAFSA online at PHEAA.org/FAFSA. Filing your FAFSA electronically speeds up turnaround time
and helps eliminate errors. To file online, you and one parent (in single parent households, the parent you live with most)
will need a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to serve as your electronic signature. Visit pin.ed.gov to obtain your PIN
before completing the FAFSA.
You are urged to file the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. Awards have varying deadlines, so be sure
you submit your FAFSA as early as possible, but never later than your earliest award deadline. Because you will need the previous
year’s tax information, complete your taxes first and then complete the FAFSA. You can also submit the FAFSA based on
estimated tax information. EducationPlanner.org offers a free FAFSA tutorial.
2. DEPENDENT OR INDEPENDENT
For financial aid purposes, you are generally considered to be dependent if you are under 24-years old, unmarried,
have no legal dependents, and are not an orphan or ward of the court or a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Students who are considered dependent for financial aid purposes, but are estranged from their parents, should
contact the school’s financial aid office for assistance.
3. STUDENT AID REPORT (SAR)
Within a week of submitting your FAFSA (if you do it online), the federal government will send you and your
schools of interest a Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR will inform you and your schools of your Expected Family Contribution
(EFC), the amount the federal government feels you and your parents are expected to contribute toward your education costs.
The amount of college costs not covered by your EFC is your financial need.
Total Student Budget – Your EFC = Your Financial Need
You should review your SAR for accuracy. If there are changes to be made, you should complete the correction
page and return it according to the instructions on the SAR. EducationPlanner.org has both a College Cost Calculator to help
you determine your annual student budget for school and an EFC Calculator to help you determine your Expected Family Contribution.
4. SCHOLARSHIPS, GRANTS AND LOANS
We encourage you to apply for free money awards like scholarships and grants before considering loans.
You must provide written documentation of all aid you receive to the financial aid office at the schools to
which you are applying.
EducationPlanner.org offers one of the largest, free scholarship search databases featuring nearly 1.8 million
awards worth almost $8 billion.
Information from the FAFSA is used to determine your eligibility for a Pennsylvania State Grant. First-time
applicants for the State Grant Program will receive a status notice in the mail requesting some additional information that
was not requested on the FAFSA.
5. AWARD LETTERS
You will receive a financial aid award letter from each of the schools to which you are accepted. Each letter
will list the types and amounts of aid that the school offers. Consider each financial aid package and each school to determine
which best meets your needs and follow the instructions on the letter.
EducationPlanner.org has a Financial Award Analyzer to help you compare award letters.
6. FEDERAL STAFFORD LOAN MASTER PROMISSORY NOTE (MPN)
If the financial aid packages offered by your schools of interest include a student loan, you will need to sign
a Stafford Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN). You can complete your MPN online at PHEAA.org or your school may send you an
MPN to complete. Complete the MPN according to instructions and follow the instructions on the document.
7. ADDITIONAL LOANS, IF NEEDED
Your parent(s) may apply for a PLUS Loan if you are a dependent, undergraduate student and need additional loan
assistance. PLUS MPNs are available at your lender of choice, from your school or you can complete an online credit check
and apply online at PHEAA.org.
Only consider private loans as a last resort to fill any "gaps" in your financial