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Consumer Tips

Apply for Federal Student Aid in Just Five Steps

Applying for student aid and loans can seem like an overwhelming task. Especially when you are just beginning to research all the options. Here's a step-by-step process that should clarify and simplify things for you.

  1. Fill out a FAFSA and submit it early.
    The first step in the process is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It is available from your high school guidance counselor, local library, or you may request on from the school to which you are applying. You can also print out a FAFSA or submit it electronically through the Department of Education's Web site at the FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid Web Site.

    Fill the FAFSA out completely since an incomplete application may be returned creating an unnecessary delay for your application. Make sure to answer "yes" to the item on the FAFSA about your interest in a student loan, so your eligibility for one will be determined.

    You stand a better chance of getting the best aid package possible for your situation if you complete the application process early. We recommend submitting your application by March 31 (do not submit it earlier than January 1 or it may be returned.) You should also check with the school you wish to attend, as they often set their own application deadlines.

  2. The federal government determines your eligibility.
    The information you supply on the FAFSA allows the federal government to determine your eligibility for various financial aid programs including:

    Federal grants which do not need to be repaid;
    Federal work-study, which allows a student to work 
      part-time on campus; and
    Federal loan program, which may be low-interest and 

  3. Receive your SAR report.
    Within four to six weeks a Student Aid Report (SAR), summarizing the financial aid programs for which you qualify, will be sent to you and the school(s) to which you applied. If you applied via the Web, you will receive an SAR by mail about one to two weeks after a complete application is received. Based on the SAR, your school will determine the maximum amount of aid for which you qualify under each program and send you an "award" letter.

  4. Receive your award letter.
    The award letter breaks down the total amount of federal aid for which you are eligible in an academic year, into the specific types of aid. And each type of aid is broken down further by the amount per semester. If your award letter shows you are eligible for a student loan, you can fill out an application to get your loan anytime after receiving the letter.

  5. See the SFCU loan department if you are eligible for a student loan.
    If the award letter shows you are eligible for a student loan or your parents would like to take out a PLUS loan for you, please contact Stark Federal Credit Union for an application packet. We make applying for your loan as simple and easy as possible.

If you need more information on the financial aid application process, contact your high school guidance counselor or the financial aid office at the school you will be attending. The Department of Education Web site is another source offering a wealth of information at, as is Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation at



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