Show me the money: Know your financial aid options

College is expensive. Luckily, there are federal and state options available to make the cost of higher education more manageable.

The first step to applying for federal student aid is to complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Federal student aid includes federal grants, work-study and loans. The FAFSA is available online at 

Many types of federal student aid, such as the Federal Pell Grant or subsidized loans where the government pays the interest while the student is in college, also require the student to have financial need. In addition, many states and colleges use the FAFSA information to determine a student’s eligibility for state and school aid.

To fill out the FAFSA form, students need their social security number, any federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned, bank statements and records of investments, records of untaxed income, and a FSA ID in order to sign the FAFSA form electronically. Dependent students will also need most of the above information for their parents.

Because state and college deadlines vary, it is highly recommended that students fill out the FAFSA as soon as they can after October 1 to make sure they do not miss out on available aid. Students have the opportunity to list any colleges they are considering on the FAFSA form. Colleges use the information provided on the FAFSA form to determine eligibility for financial aid, and most colleges send out financial aid award letters around the same time as admission offers letters. However, students should contact the financial aid office at the college they plan to attend for information about applying for aid at that college.

The primary way for students to apply for TOPS is also through the FAFSA. TOPS, the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, is a program of state scholarships for Louisiana residents who attend a Louisiana public college or university, a school that is a part of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, as well as other approved schools. Some students will qualify for an additional TOPS stipend due to their GPA and ACT scores.  

Student aid guidelines

To receive federal student aid, you must:

Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the US

Have a valid social security number

Maintain satisfactory academic progress

Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certification

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