Apply for Aid — Start Here

Federal and New York State student financial aid is available to help pay for college. In order to continue receiving financial aid, you must apply for it every year you attend college.

Below is an outline of the process for applying for financial aid.

Step 1: The FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA - the Free Application for Federal Student Aid -  is the first step to applying for financial aid. The information you provide determines whether you are eligible for federal financial aid, and the amount you are qualified to receive. Remember, the FAFSA is free — do not pay to submit your application.

Students can complete the FAFSA as soon as possible in December of their senior year. Learn the Top 10 Reasons to Complete the FAFSA Early.

Apply for a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) online at to complete and electronically sign your FAFSA and other federal student aid documents. Applying before you start the FAFSA makes the process a lot easier.

Complete the FASFA online at or through the myStudentAid mobile app. Step-by-step assistance is available as you complete the form. If you can't do it online, you can download a paper application of the FAFSA. Both the paper and online FASFA is available in English and Spanish.

You will be able to review your Student Aid Report (SAR) once your FAFSA is processed. The SAR will show how much federal aid you are entitled to receive and how much your family can expect to pay. They will also provide you with your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Check out this list of documents and information you will need to complete the FAFSA.

Step 2: New York State TAP

If you are a New York State resident attending college in New York State, apply for TAP.

Learn about the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)

Click on the "Start your state application" link on the online FAFSA confirmation page to complete your TAP application after submitting the FAFSA.

Or, if you already filed the FAFSA apply for TAP now through the HESC Website.

Step 3: Other NYS Aid

Step 4: Institutional Aid

The colleges you listed on the FAFSA will receive a copy of your information that they use to determine institutional aid. Once accepted, you will receive an award letter from the college detailing the aid you can receive at that college.

Check with your college to see if there are additional applications for institutional aid, such as the CollegeBoard's CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE application.

Step 5: Outside Scholarships

Scholarships and awards are offered by other sources such as community groups, clubs and organizations.

Ask your high school counselor about available scholarships and awards.

Search FREE scholarship websites. Do not pay for them.

Step 6: Compare College Award Letters

Each college to which you are accepted will send a college award letter detailing the financial aid package you are eligible to receive.

Review and compare financial aid award letters carefully before making a decision. Use HESC's Award Letter Comparison Tool.

Once you choose the college you will attend, follow instructions on how to accept or decline each part of the offer of aid, and supply any other documents as requested.

Call the college financial aid office and make sure all documents are received, and your financial aid is set before classes start.

Step 7: Student Loans

If necessary, apply for student loans.  Be sure you have received all federal, state and institutional grants and scholarships for which you qualify before you take any student loans. Loans must be repaid with interest.

Start with federal loans. Federal loans have low, fixed-rates for students and parents. Follow the instructions in your award letter to receive federal loans. For more information, visit

Private loans are an option if you still have a funding gap after applying for and receiving all aid as well as federal student loans. Learn more about private loans.
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