It’s senior year and you’ve already visited several of your prospective colleges and universities. You’ve thought about all of the important things: location, climate, size of the school, activities on campus, dorms, meal plans and, of course, the majors offered.

You have attended college fairs, and workshops to help you prepare for all that you need to accomplish during your senior year, and oh yeah, that financial aid thing, that’s in the back of your mind, but you don’t have to worry about it until you get accepted to school, right? Wrong! Financial aid is part of the college process; just like looking at schools to see if the size and academic programs are right or the dorm rooms are big enough.

The financial aid process takes time and effort. You can find resources to help you pay for college if you invest time and energy to find financial aid that helps you pay the bill. There are four basic steps to follow when applying for financial aid and if you haven’t begun already, start right away.

Step 1 – Prepare

Research college costs, financial aid requirements and deadlines at, or through the college(s) financial aid office or school Web site.

Attend a local financial aid information session – usually offered at your high school.

Save money from your part time job to use on campus this fall. Be sure to line up work during college breaks so you can save more money for those out-of-pocket expenses.

Research outside scholarships. Be sure to utilize FREE scholarship searches only.

Step 2 – Apply

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online at

File your FAFSA on time. You should submit the FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible. Don’t wait until your taxes are complete, use estimated tax information and make changes later.

Save your FAFSA confirmation page. This is proof of when you filed the application.

Step 3 – Follow Up

Review your Student Aid Report carefully. You will receive this report electronically or via paper after you file your FAFSA.

Use the Student Aid Report to update your tax information and correct any errors.

Changes you make to your SAR will be sent to all of the colleges listed on your FAFSA.

Additional documentation may be required by the colleges. Your colleges will request documentation from you if they need it.

Step 4 – Respond

Once accepted for admission, you will receive a financial aid award notice.

Award information is sometimes sent via e-mail and each college will send a different award. Be sure to monitor mail and e-mail daily.

Remember that costs and financial aid offered vary by school.

Be sure to compare grants vs. loans – more grants and less loans are a good sign.

Respond to colleges if necessary; some types of aid require additional steps to be finalized.

All students should apply for financial aid. Finance Authority of Maine has many resources available to you for free. Use FAME’s scholarship, college, and career search tools online. In addition to web resources, FAME has many publications including: The Financial Aid Tool Kit; and The Tool Kit for the Adult Student. View our free publications and use FAME’s tools online at You can also call 800-228-3734 and speak with one of our education representatives.