The first step in your quest for financial aid is to visit the FAFSA Web site (FAFSA stands for the "Free Application for Federal Student Aid"). The amount of financial aid you may be eligible to receive depends on a few variables. Most institutions expect that you will pay for a portion of your tuition, but they generally do not expect you to foot the whole bill. When you fill out the FAFSA, the USDE (United States Department of Education) is able to determine your EFC, or your "Expected Family Contribution." They evaluate your FAFSA in order to determine what you or your family will be able to contribute to your tuition expenses. The overall “need analysis" which they conduct takes into account your income, assets, and other basic household information. This determines how much aid you are eligible to receive, and what you will feasibly be able to eventually pay back.

The FAFSA is always the first step if you'd like to be considered for any kind of financial aid. In fact, almost all postsecondary educational institutions (online institutions, colleges, universities) use the FAFSA to determine if an applicant is eligible for aid, and how much aid to offer. Log onto the USDE Web site to fill out your form - for free!