***FILE NOW***
    New and Returning Users follow the link below
    You have probably been told that filling out a FAFSA is very important, but you may be wondering why it's such a big deal.  Here you'll find information about why the FAFSA is so important, and how the information you provide is used. 
    Why the FAFSA is Needed 
    There is a great deal of money available to help students pay for college.  The federal government provides billions of dollars in financial aid, and colleges and organizations also have large sums of money set aside for students who need help paying for college. 
    But how do colleges, the federal government, and others know which students really need help paying for college?
    This is where FAFSA comes in.  The FAFSA is an application that provides an estimation of how much a family could pay for college the following year.  The federal government, colleges, and others need this information to help them calculate who is eligible for financial aid (grants, work-study, loans). 
    If you don't fill out a FAFSA, no one will have the information they need - which means that there's a lot of financial aid money you won't have access to! 
    How the Information is Used 
    After you submit a FAFSA, you receive a Student Aid Report (SAR).  This report will also be sent to the colleges listed on your FAFSA.  The SAR will include your SAI (Student Aid Index). 
    Your SAI provides colleges with an estimation of what your family could afford to pay for college the following year.  Colleges, federal and state aid programs, and lending institutions use this SAI figure to help them determine if you have a financial need, and if so, what that need is. 
    Determining financial need 
    Other factors may be considered, but a student's financial need is primarily determined by comparing their SAI to the cost of attendance (COA) at a particular college. 
     Keep Calm
    The FAFSA Application Process 
    Students and families often find the thought of completing the FAFSA overwhelming and intimidating, but it doesn't have to be.  By following these simple steps, you can complete the FAFSA quickly and easily, and be on your way to achieving your college goals. 
    Steps for Filling out the FAFSA
    Step 1: Gather your materials 
    To complete the FAFSA, you and your parents will need the following: social security or alien registration number; driver's license (if you have one); federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other financial records; bank statements; records of any untaxed income; and your list of colleges. 
    Step 2: Create an FSA ID 
    Your FSA ID is a username and password combination that is unique to you.  You will use your FSA ID every time you log in to complete or edit the FAFSA.  Visit studentaid.gov/fsa-id to create your FSA ID.  If you are filing as a dependent, at least one parent will also need an FSA ID. 
    Step 3: Complete the applications 
    The FAFSA opens on October 1 for the following school year.  Using the materials you've gathered, complete all sections of the application.  There are separate sections for both the student and parents.  Be sure to save your work if you cannot finish in one sitting.  
    Step 4: Review your SOAR
    If you submit the FAFSA electronically, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) within 3-5 days.  This report will also be sent to the colleges you listed on your FAFSA.  Your SAR will include: 
    1. Student Aid Index (SAI) - the number colleges use to calculate financial aid awards 
    2. Summary of all of the information you provided at the FAFSA

    Review your SAR carefully to make sure that everything is correct.

    Step 5: Make the necessary changes 

    If you need to make any changes to your FAFSA, log in using your FSA ID and choose the menu option.  Make FAFSA Corrections.  You will receive confirmation within 3-5 days that your corrections were processed. 

    Step 6: Compare packages

    Colleges that have accepted you will use the information from your SAR to determine if you have a financial need.  They will then put together a financial aid package for you.  This package will be made up of grants, scholarships, work-study, and/or loans.  Financial aid packages will vary from college to college, so it's important to compare these packages carefully. 

    Step 7: Do it again next year 

    You're required to submit a new FAFSA every year, but it gets easier each time you do it. 

    HelpNeed help with your FAFSA application?? Help
    FAFSA help line:  1-800-808-1790 (Tuesdays and Thursdays 12-5 PM) or email at FAFSAhelp@hesc.org
    FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions visit this link:  http://www.hesc.ny.gov/content.nsf/SFC/FAFSA_Frequently_Asked_Questions

    After you Complete the FAFSA 

    So you've submitted your FAFSA. Great job! You now may be eligible to receive thousands of dollars to help you pay for your college education. What happens next? Filling out the FAFSA is the hardest part, but it's not the last step. Here's what will happen after you submit your FAFSA. 

    What to Expect


    When you submit your FAFSA, you should receive a confirmation email that indicates your application was received and is being processed. Electronic applications are processed within 3-5 days. Paper applications are processed within 7-10 days. Make note of your confirmation number and/or print it out for your records. If you did not receive a notification number, visit studentaid.gov for assistance. 

    Student Aid Report (SAR) 

    Once your application is processed, you will receive a Student Aid Report, or SAR. Your SAR is a summary of all the information you provided on your application. It's important to review your SAR carefully to make sure everything is correct. If anything is wrong or missing (even something as small as a misplaced decimal point), your aid could be delayed or not go through at all. 

    Student Aid Index (SAI) 

    Your SAR (Student Aid Report) will include your Student Aid Index, or SAI. The SAI figure is an eligibility index for student aid. An applicant's SAI provides colleges with an estimation of the amount their family could afford to pay for college the following year. The lower the SAI amount, the higher the financial need, and the greater the eligibility for federal financial assistance. 

    Financial Aid Packages

    Once your financial need is determined, the college's financial aid office will put together a financial aid package for you. 

    Financial aid packages are a combination of grants, scholarships, work-study, and/or loans. While it would be great if packages were mostly made up of grants and scholarships (free money), the majority of financial aid comes in the form of loans. 

    Because financial aid packages will vary from college to college, it is very important to carefully compare them. Consider not only how much aid is offered, but also the type of aid that's offered. Regardless of how much aid you receive, it's good to look for ways to cut college costs.