College can be a tremendous financial burden on families or individuals trying to afford the high cost of attending an institution of higher learning. In the United States, there are a number of financial aid programs at both the federal and state level that provide aid to a student to help defray the cost of attendance. In order to check a student's financial aid status, he or she must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submit any required paperwork to the school where he or she plans to attend. Once the FAFSA has been processed, a student may check his or her financial aid status online, by telephone, or in person at the financial aid office at the school where he or she has indicated that he or she will enroll on the forms.
In the United States, all federally-, and most state-, funded financial aid is determined based on the completion of the FAFSA. The FAFSA determines what is known as the "Expected Family Contribution" (EFC). The EFC is what the student, or the student's family if he or she is considered a dependent student, is expected to be able to contribute to the cost of attending an institution of higher education. Once the EFC has been calculated, the individual schools are able to put together a financial aid package for the student, which may include student or parent loans, grants, or participation in the work-study program.
Completion of the FAFSA may be accomplished online or by requesting a paper copy of the application. Once the FAFSA has been received, it is processed rather quickly — usually within a week. A student may check his or her financial aid status as it applies to the EFC once the FAFSA has been processed online through the FAFSA website.
Individual schools may require additional supporting documents after the FAFSA results have been received to package a student's financial aid. Additional documents may include copies of the student's and/or parent's income tax returns, proof of residency, and an independent student worksheet, among others. After all of the necessary documents have been submitted, the school will process the student's financial aid package.
A student is usually able to check his or her financial aid status online once it has been processed, although individual school procedures may vary. A student should be able to simply sign on to his or her account at the school and locate the financial aid section of the website. From there, the student can enter his or her school identification number or social security number and view his or her financial aid status. If the school does not offer an online option, a telephone call or visit to the school's financial aid office should be able to determine the student's financial aid status.