Financial Aid & FAFSA/WASFA

  • Seniors who are applying to colleges/universities and tech/trade schools should apply for financial aid (FAFSA/WASFA & Scholarships). These financial aid applications are found online on October 1. For most financial aid, a student does not need to know where they are going to college/tech/trade school. Once a student knows where they are attending, they can then contact that school's financial aid office to make sure they are applying for all scholarships that meet their criteria. Make sure to double-check college scholarship deadlines on the college scholarship or financial aid page!

    What is financial aid?
    Financial aid is funding/money that is available to students to help cover the costs of attending a college/university/technical or trade school. The price of tuition can be high, but financial aid can make it affordable!

    What can financial aid possibly cover?

    • Tuition and fees
    • Books
    • Room and board
    • Supplies
    • Transportation (getting to and from school)

    Financial aid comes in any of the following forms:

    • Grants
    • Scholarships
    • Work-study
    • Student loan

    What is a grant?
    A grant is federal money that does not have to be repaid. The two most well-known federal grants are the Pell Grant and the Washington College Grant.  Eligibility for both these grants is based on a family’s Student Aid Index (SAI) which is calculated on the FAFSA. To get an estimate of potential awards, you can use the Financial Aid Calculator. 

    *Colleges can also provide grants and scholarships to students.

    What is a scholarship?
    A scholarship is a gift of money that does not have to be repaid. They are typically awarded for a specific reason, which could be any of the following: based on merit (good grades and GPA), community service, leadership experience, sports, special talents, cultural or religious background, personal interests, regardless of financial need or for any reason. There are thousands of scholarships awarded every year! Scholarships can be found through high school (check out the Scholarships webpage), through the college/technical school you are applying to, employers (yours and your parents/guardians), individuals, private companies, religious groups and organizations. Scholarship search engines like and GearUp Washington are another way to find scholarships! Seniors, also be checking the SHS bulletin and the SHS College & Career Center Canvas page for scholarship opportunities!

    What is work-study?
    Work-study is a federal program that provides part-time work on the campus you are going to attend, to help you cover college-related expenses… a pay check for you…..for working on a campus job for a few or more hours a week. The jobs can be anything from office work to providing entertainment at sporting events and halftime shows! Students need to check the box on the FAFSA that asks, “are you interested in work-study opportunities?”.

    What is a student loan?
    A student loan is money that you borrow and must pay back with interest. Student loans can come from the federal government, banks, financial institutions or from other organizations. With federal student loans, the interest rate is fixed and usually lower than private loans and they offer flexible repayment plans. Three common student loans are:

    • Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible students who demonstrate financial need. Interest does not accrue on the loan while you are in school, attending at least half the time. The federal government "subsidizes" (or pays) the interest during these times. Additionally, there are maximum amounts you can receive per school year.
    • Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible students not based on financial need.  Interest does accrue from the time the loan is disbursed to the school.  Additionally, there are maximum amounts you can receive per school year.
    • Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to parents of students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. A credit check is required.

    Those are the four types of student financial aid!

    How do I apply for all this financial aid?
    In Washington, there are two different applications for financial aid, but you only file one. Determine which application you are eligible for:

    1. File the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) if you are a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen (permanent resident)
    1. File the WASFA(Washington Application for State Financial Aid) if you are not eligible to complete the FAFSA due to immigration status or other reasons.

    How do I file the FAFSA application?
    How to Fill Out the FAFSA Form video.
    The FAFSA is a free application with a series of questions used to determine your ability to pay for college. The result is called the Student Aid Index (SAI). This SAI will determine how much federal aid you will receive. A lot of states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine which students get financial aid—and how much they’ll get. You need to fill out a new FAFSA before each college year in which you want to get aid. Make sure you use a permanent email address, not your school account.

    The FAFSA has an opening and closing date! It opens on October 1 and depending on the college you are attending, there is a FAFSA application due date.

    The FAFSA asks for information about you and your family’s finances, including tax returns, so you’ll need your parents’ help to complete it.

    In order to start your FAFSA application, you must first:

    1. Create an FSA ID, which is a username and password, that will allow you to login to your FAFSA application and you will use it to sign your FAFSA form electronically at the end. Because your parent/guardian will have to sign off on the FAFSA, they will need to create one too. (your parents may already have an FSA ID from an older sibling that they will use.)
    2. Gather items to help you fill out the FAFSA:
    • Your social security number/parent social security number
    • Your driver’s license or ID card and your parent’s
    • Your income information (bank statements, W-2, last year's tax return) and your parents’ information
    • Additional financial information (parents supply this info)

    Start the FAFSA.

    If you need help, research online or call the FAFSA hotline (800-433-3243)

    1. Start the FAFSA application by filling out the student portion and then have your parent/guardian fill out the parent portion of the application. Finish the application by signing with your FSA ID’s.
    2. To start the WASFA application, visit
      1. Start by registering a new WASFA account and then answer a series of questions.
      2. Gather items to help you fill out the WASFA
    • Your income information (bank statements, W-2, last year's tax return) and your parents
    • Additional financial information and your parents.

    How do I find out what financial aid I received?
    Most colleges send out financial aid award letters around the same time as admission offer letters are sent. Also, it depends on when you completed your FAFSA. So file your FAFSA now!

    Seniors, your counselor, as well as, Mrs. Stapleton in the College & Career Center can answer questions and direct you to resources. (call, email, make an appointment)

    • If you are applying to colleges and you have questions about your financial aid make sure you contact the financial aid office.  The staff can help you navigate the process based on your circumstances.

    Now is the perfect time to be applying for financial aid! You should fill out your FAFSA application as soon as you can, so you get the best shot at getting the most assistance by applying early! If you don’t qualify for federal assistance, you might qualify for grants or scholarships from the school you will be attending by filling out the FAFSA!

    FAFSA Biggest Misconception

    I am not going to fill out the FAFSA, because I won’t be eligible for financial aid... this may be true regarding receiving aid from the Federal Government, but the FAFSA is used by colleges to determine Merit/need-based/other scholarships, as well as, work study opportunities and student loans. Please fill out the FAFSA/WASFA….what do you have to lose, except a possible scholarship or grant from the school you will be attending!

    Financial Aid Calculator

    This tool calculates potential awards from the Washington College Grant and Pell Grant programs that you might get from filling out the FAFSA. There may be more aid available to you from other state and federal programs, from private colleges or directly from the college you plan on attending. All undergraduate colleges are required to have a net price calculator on their website. Here is a link for students to estimate their costs:

    Other financial aid informational websites