Financial Aid Timeline

Many college students need some type of financial aid. Use the timeline below to follow the key steps in the financial aid process. As a general rule, start your financial aid planning a year in advance.

Before you read the timeline, these terms will be helpful to know:

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - The application for Federal student financial aid, including grants, loans and work-study. Many colleges and states also require the FAFSA for non-Federal financial aid applications.
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - The amount the Federal government expects the student and his or her family to contribute to the cost of attendance, based on the family's income and assets as reported in the FAFSA.
  • Student Aid Report (SAR) - Used by many colleges to determine eligibility for financial aid. The SAR includes your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), based on information you provided in the FAFSA. You will receive your SAR by email within 3-5 days after submitting the FAFSA, or in the mail if you did not provide an email address.
  • CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE - Financial Aid PROFILE is used by many colleges to determine eligibility for Non-Federal financial aid.
  • Master Promissory Note (MPN) - Acts as your contract with the federal government for an Education Loan.


  • Estimate costs of attending college next year.
  • Learn more about what you'll be expected to pay.
  • To complete the FAFSA in January, you'll need a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Apply now for your PIN at to receive your PIN in time. If you're a dependent student, your parent will also need a PIN.
  • Start a financial aid folder to keep track of all your paperwork.
  • Check all application and financial aid deadlines for your college.


  • Complete the FAFSA as early as possible. You can file the FAFSA online at We strongly recommend checking with your school's financial aid office to make sure you meet their deadlines and any state deadlines.
  • Complete any other financial aid applications that may be required by your colleges.
  • Within 3-5 days after completing the FAFSA, you should receive the Student Aid Report (SAR) by email (if no email address was listed on the FAFSA, your SAR will be sent by mail.) Review the SAR, make any corrections and return it to the FAFSA processor.
  • If your college requires the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, file it online at at least four weeks before your college's deadline. There is a fee to register, as well as a fee for each college to which the information is provided.
  • Once you've completed the FAFSA and provided any other required documentation to the college’s financial aid office, you will receive an award letter from your college, listing what aid you will receive. Typically, award letters are sent to the student in April.
  • Contact the Financial Aid Office at your college to make sure they have everything they need for your application.


  • Review acceptance letters and financial aid offers from the colleges that have accepted you; make your decision and notify the college.
  • Respond to each offer and either accept, reduce (if you want to accept only a portion of the aid offered) or deny the offer (if you've decided on another college).
  • Contact the college Financial Aid Office to find out about any deposits you'll need to make before entering college.
  • If you'll need a Student Loan to supplement your financial aid, contact your college's Financial Aid Office to apply.
  • Complete the appropriate Master Promissory Note (MPN) for your loan type (Stafford, Parent PLUS or Graduate PLUS) with the federal government.
  • If you need a Private Loan to help fill the gap after scholarships, grants and federal aid, contact us at 800-666-3910 for more information.


  • Your loan funds will be disbursed to your account at your college. As the college year starts, verify that your college has received your loan proceeds.


  • To send an email that contains confidential information, please visit the Secure Message Center where there are additional instructions about whether to use Secure Email or Online Banking messaging.