How to Apply for Financial Aid - COLLEGEdata - Pay Your Way
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How to Apply for Financial Aid

Here is a look at the key steps to getting financial aid.

If you want the best financial aid—lots of free or low-cost money for college—there's more to it than simply turning in your aid applications.

1. Talk to your parents about applying for financial aid

It is critical that you understand how your family's income and financial assets might impact your financial aid awards. For example, savings in your name will reduce your eligibility for aid much more than assets owned by your parents.

2. Get familiar with aid applications

Start by getting to know the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which all colleges use to determine federal aid. If you plan to apply to private colleges, review the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE as well. And be sure to find out how to apply for aid offered by your state.

3. Get an idea of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

Your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC is an official estimate of your family's ability to contribute to your college education. Your EFC may or may not seem fair to you, but it is based on a strict formula. The sooner you know your EFC, the sooner your family can take steps to reduce it. Use the EFC Calculator to get an idea of your family's EFC.

4. Get ready to apply for scholarships

Do you have an outstanding skill, a strong connection to an ethnic heritage, a specific career interest, or stellar academic performance? Your personal achievements and qualities may make you eligible for scholarships, but the competition is keen. Start early to build your strengths and prepare your resume. Use the Scholarship Finder to research scholarships and their requirements.

5. Find out deadlines for financial aid forms

Colleges have different deadlines for the FAFSA and other aid forms. Develop a system for keeping track of the various deadlines. Some students keep separate folders for each school. Others use calendars or spreadsheets.

6. File your aid applications early

Filing early puts you near the front of the line to receive aid. Most colleges calculate financial aid awards using information from your FAFSA, so plan to complete it as soon as possible after it becomes available on October 1. If a college also requires the PROFILE, you should file it at the same time as the FAFSA.

7. Submit supplemental forms and documents

Many colleges require you to complete forms in addition to the FAFSA. These forms can be much more nosy. For example, they may ask how much equity your parents have in their home, the amount of assets held by a divorced parent, and how much college money is held by your grandparents. And their deadlines may be different than the FAFSA deadline.

What's Next?

  • Check out other financial aid articles in the Pay Your Way section.
  • Learn more about the FAFSA and PROFILE aid applications.
  • Estimate your net price to attend the colleges that interest you.

Note: Financial information provided on this site is of a general nature and may not apply to your situation. Contact a financial or tax advisor before acting on such information.

For Students Age 18 and Older

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1st Financial Bank believes students who pick colleges wisely will also want to learn how to use credit cards wisely.

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COLLEGEdata Dollars are
points you earn by
completing certain
COLLEGEdata activities

Ways to earn
COLLEGEdata Dollars:

  • Complete your Admissions Profile.
  • Add colleges to your College Choices.
  • Update your Admissions Statuses.
  • Use the College Match tool.

What are COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$)?

COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$) are points you earn by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. The maximum number of CD$ you can redeem is 5000. Once you have earned at least 2500 CD$, you can redeem them for $25, which will be provided to you on a Loyalty Card, and once you earn another 2500 CD$, you can redeem those CD$ for a second $25, which will also be provided to you on a Loyalty Card.

Earn points and redeem them for
U.S. Dollars

Complete certain COLLEGEdata activities (for example, signing up, starting your Admissions Profile, searching for colleges, calculating your chances for admission, searching for scholarships, updating your Profile with your admission decisions). Each activity is worth a specific amount of points (CD$). You can redeem the points you earn for U.S. Dollars that will be issued to you in the form of a 1st Financial Bank USA Loyalty Mastercard®.

How do I earn COLLEGEdata Dollars?

You can earn CD$ by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. As soon as you sign up and activate your COLLEGEdata account, explore COLLEGEdata and begin completing COLLEGEdata activities to earn points.

Here is a full list of COLLEGEdata activities for which you may earn CD$ and the number of CD$ you can earn by completing each activity.*

Activity
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Check your CD$ Dashboard at the bottom of the page to view your CD$ balance, find other activities that you can complete to earn CD$, and redeem the CD$ you have earned for U.S. Dollars.