Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.


This site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.


Financial Aid for Students

If you need help paying for college, technical, or career school, check out the options you may be eligible for from the federal government and other sources. Learn why federal student loans are generally preferable to private loans, and how to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Federal Student Financial Aid and the FAFSA

You can find grants and scholarships, student loans, and work-study programs through Federal Student Aid (FSA) to help pay for college or career school. Use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to access them.

Am I eligible for Federal Student Aid?

Eligibility requirements for federal student aid include:

  • Financial need

  • Being a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen

  • Remaining in good standing on any federal student loans you have

  • Being in or accepted for an eligible degree or certificate program

  • Maintaining adequate academic progress

Note: This is not a complete list. Review all eligibility requirements.

How do I apply for Federal Student Aid?

  1. Know the deadlines for submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

    • The federal deadline for the 2019–20 school year is June 30, 2020. 

    • Many states and colleges use the FAFSA for their financial aid programs. Those deadlines vary.

  2. Create an FSA ID account if you’re going to submit your FAFSA online or track its status online. If you’re going to submit a paper FAFSA by mail and won’t be tracking its status, you won’t need an FSA ID.

  3. Complete and submit the FAFSA.

  4. Know what happens after you submit the FAFSA. This includes:

    • Learning how to correct or update information on it.

    • Finding out how and when you’ll get your aid.

How do I check the status of an application?

You can check the status of your FAFSA:

  • Anytime after submitting it online

  • Seven to 10 days after mailing a paper FAFSA

You can check by:

How do I complain about Federal Student Aid?

Who do I contact for extra help?

  • Visit the FSA Contact Us page for a detailed guide listing phone numbers and other ways to reach experts about federal student aid, FAFSA, loans and loan consolidation, and more.  

Is there anything else I need to know?

Video: After FAFSA

This video explains what happens after submitting the FAFSA application and getting your Student Aid Report (SAR).

Get a Student Loan

Types of Student Loans

When you are exploring ways to pay for college, career, or technical schools, you may consider taking out a student loan—money you borrow to help you cover your education expenses and that you must pay back with interest.   

Student loans originate from the federal government (called “federal student loans”) or from private sources, such as a bank, credit union, state agency, or school. Learn the differences between federal and private loans before considering a loan.

Federal Student Loans

If you need to borrow money to pay for college or career school, start with the more affordable federal student loan:

Types of Federal Student Loan Programs - The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program offers four types of Direct Loans:    

  • Direct Subsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate students based on financial need.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, and are not based on financial need.
  • Direct PLUS Loans are made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students.
  • Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.

The Federal Perkins Loan Program is administered through the schools, and awarded to undergraduates and graduate students with exceptional financial need. If you are eligible, you should take this loan first.

Eligibility - You must be enrolled at a school that participates in the school loan program, and meet the general eligibility requirements.

How to apply - Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Watch this video to learn more about what happens after submitting your FAFSA.

Private Student Loans

Before taking a private loan, make sure you need it. These loans generally are not as affordable as federal student loans, and offer little repayment flexibility. Read these tips before getting a  private loan.

Learn more about student loans, and how to identify deceptive private loan practices.

Video: Types of Federal Student Aid

Check out this video to learn more about grants, loans, and work-study jobs.

Share This Page:
Facebook Twitter Email

Do you need help?

Ask us any question about the U.S. government for free. We'll get you the answer or tell you where to find it.

Last Updated: September 6, 2019