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""Each year, financial aid helps millions of students across the United States achieve their dreams of attending college.

There are many free resources available to guide you through the application process. The Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA), a division of the Department of Higher Education (DHE), and the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Federal Student Aid Office (FSA) provide information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), as well as the different types of financial aid and how to make college as affordable as possible.

1. Understand Financial Aid and the Aid Process

Before you begin applying for financial aid, learn the steps to take and what’s available. The following tools can help you become familiar with the process.

  • MEFA Webinars — The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) offers webinars on topics like the college financing process and the FAFSA to help students and their families understand the types of aid, how it is dispersed, and how to apply for it. These and other college planning resources are available online to guide you.
  • Financial Aid Glossary — FSA has compiled a glossary of financial aid terms that define key concepts, including cost of attendance (COA), disbursed amount, and expected family contribution (EFC), so students and families can fill out the FAFSA more easily.
  • Net Price Calculator Center — The Net Price Calculator Center allows you to search for colleges’ and universities’ net price calculators to get an estimate of your out-of-pocket cost of attending that school.

2. Complete Your FAFSA

The FAFSA is required for many kinds of federal and state financial aid and is the first step to finding out if you are eligible for grants, work-study funds, and loans. The FAFSA can be filed online or by mail, although using the online form is recommended. There are different application deadlines depending on the college or university you are applying for.

You can also find valuable online resources that review the steps to fill out the FAFSA and explain common FAFSA mistakes, such as not getting an FSA ID ahead of time or waiting to fill out the FAFSA until after you file your taxes.

3. Check Other Required Financial Aid Forms and Deadlines

Each college or university you apply to may have different deadlines for financial aid or require other financial aid forms in addition to the FAFSA, such as the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®. Contact the financial aid office at each school to find out the necessary applications and deadlines.

4. Explore Your Financial Aid Options

Once you have filled out your FAFSA, you may be eligible for other grants, scholarships, tuition waivers, and loans offered by the Commonwealth. Some of this financial aid requires a separate application.

The Quick Guide for Students from OSFA allows you to find out the types of aid you may be eligible for, based on whether you are applying as a full- or part-time student, plan on attending a private or public college, or are looking for need- or merit-based options.

The full list of state financial aid programs includes aid specifically for part-time students, foster children, technology interns, and more. Each listing includes information on who is eligible, which institutions qualify, how much aid you can receive, and how to apply. Financial aid and education benefits for veterans are also available.

If you need additional resources to finance your education, there are many private scholarships available to prospective students in Massachusetts through community groups. Private educational loans are also available to families through MEFA, banks, and other organizations.

With this knowledge, you can explore your options, simplify the financial aid process, and ensure that you have applied for aid properly.

Comment below or tweet @MassGov with any questions about the financial aid process.

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