First Steps to Financial Aid Planning    

Image Retrieved from CHCP (2013)

Does the thought of applying for Financial Aid leave you in a frenzy?  It shouldn’t, as it is a relatively simple process once you understand some basic terms.  The first steps to understanding financial aid is understanding the acronyms that they used or you will think you are hearing a foreign language.

The first acronym is FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  The key words are “free application.”    Know that there are companies that will attempt to lure you in with offers of help and then charge you for filling in the application.   The official FAFSA site is and this is where you go to fill in the application.

The next is FSA ID or Federal Student Aid Identification.  Creating a FSA ID is the first step in the financial aid process.  Both the parent and the student have to create separate IDs, which become the unique identifier for each person.  To create your personal ID, go to and click on Create a FSA ID now.  It will take between 7-10 minutes for each person.   Make sure to write down your login name and password and keep them safe because you will need them to access the FAFSA every time you file.

EFC or Expected Family Contribution is a term that is thrown around quite frequently in the Financial Aid world. Once you fill out the FAFSA you will get a dollar number that represents your EFC.  This is the amount of money FAFSA has determined you can afford to contribute toward college.   This figure is based on the information you entered into your FAFSA, which is then run through a magical formula to make a determination of how much you can afford to pay.

The final acronym is SAR or Student Aid Report.  This is a report that includes all the information that you entered into the FAFSA.  Many financial aid professionals will refer to the SAR, which is sometimes also referred to as or the ISIR.  Once you fill out your FAFSA you will be able to print this out.

This ends your first lesson in Financial Aid.  Now go and create those FSA ID’s and be one step ahead of everyone else!

By Melinda Lane



CHCP. (2013). Investing in your future [blog format]. Retrieved from

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