Financial Aid: FAFSA, WASFA, College Bound, and Scholarships

  •  Navigating the college financial aid process can be daunting. It helps to:

    1. Start early. Families with 9th and 10th grade students can start planning. It is possible you will want to make some changes in your finances. 
    2. Do your research into colleges by going through the steps on the College Fit page. Some schools offer excellent need-based aid, and others offer great merit aid, and it helps to go through steps like: 
      1. Use the Federal Student Aid Estimator to assess your options
      2. Use Net Price Calculators available on every college's website
      3. Investigate Need-Based & Merit Aid policies and practices for individual colleges. 
    3. Be aware of programs like WUE, the Western Undergraduate Exchange (see below). 
    4. Use finances as a factor when forming college lists. Cost isn't everything, but it is a major factor for most families. 
    5. Seek outside help. Below are two resources to start with:
      1. For an excellent guide to College Financial Aid, read the 2017 Guide to College Financial Aid, the FAFSA and CSS Profile by Troy Onink of Forbes Magazine. While it is slightly outdated, it is an excellent guide to the process.
      2. For a handy timeline of what to be doing when, download this Financial Aid Timeline produced by the authors of two reliable blogs, Road2College and DIYCollegeRankings.

    The Financial Aid Process

    Finding financial aid can seem overwhelming when you’re trying to get ready for college or career school. The U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid is here to help you get the money you need to pay for your education.


    Scholarships and state aid can help cover the cost of college or career school, but you may find yourself in need of federal assistance.


    SAVINGS: Begin saving early.

    SCHOLARSHIPS: Look for scholarships through your state or college as well as national and community organizations.

    STATE AID: Many states have college funding programs. Ask a guidance counselor or your college financial aid office for more information.

    It’s time to apply for financial aid.


    The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is the only way to apply for federal student aid. The schools you list on your application will use FAFSA information to evaluate your financial need and determine how much federal aid you are eligible to receive. Many states and colleges also use information from your FAFSA to provide their own financial aid.

    Each October, the FAFSA is available for the next school year. It is best to fill it out as early as you can because some aid is first come, first served.

    When you complete the FAFSA, you’ll need to provide personal and tax information. You may be able to automatically retrieve your tax information from the IRS.

    Complete the FAFSA online at Make sure to fill out and submit the FAFSA each year you are in college.

    After you submit your FAFSA, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR summarizes the information in your FAFSA. Review it and make corrections if needed.

    Your FAFSA helps your school determine the types of federal student aid you are eligible to receive.


    Types of Federal Student Aid

    As the largest provider of financial aid, the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid provides grants, loans, and work-study funds.

    Grants: Grants are free money that do not have to be repaid.

    Loans: Student loans are real loans (like a car or home loan) that need to be repaid with interest.

    Work-Study: A work-study job gives you the opportunity to earn money to help pay your educational expenses.


    Your award letter explains the combination of federal grants, loans, and work-study a college is offering you. The offer might also contain state and institutional aid. If you receive award letters from multiple colleges or career schools, you should compare them and decide which school works best for you.


    Every year, millions of new students attend college or career school for the first time. Your college or career school has a financial aid office to help guide you along the way.

    Beyond Education

    Workforce: When you take the time to plan for your education and let Federal Student Aid help you along the way, you’ll be setting the foundation for a bright future and success in the workforce.

    Repayment: Once you leave school, you will need to repay your student loans. Contact your loan servicer to discuss your repayment options.

    Federal Student Aid
    An Office of the U.S. Department of Education
    Proud Sponsor of the American Mind™

    End of content from
    Get Started
    1. Create your FSA ID
    2. Start the FAFSA at  as early as October 1 of senior year. 
    3. Some colleges also use the CSS Profile to assess a family's need. It also opens October 1 and requires a fee. 

    Washington State Financial Aid

    ReadySetGrad is a Washington State program providing tools, information, and support to help students graduate high school and make college accessible and affordable. 
    See the $ for College page on for: 
    • types of financial aid
    • Washington State Financial Aid Programs
    • College Bound Scholarship
    • State Financial Aid for DREAMers / WASFA
    • Washington State Need Grant
    GET Account Resources
    If you have a Guaranteed Education Tuition / GET account, a Washington State college savings tool, see the following: 
    GET Accounts and the FAFSA for information on how the FAFSA views the account as an asset
    UW Seattle Student Fiscal Services for UW procedures regarding GET

    Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA)

    Start the WASFA
    DREAMers:  On February 26th, 2014, Governor Inslee signed the Dream Act, known in Washington State as the Real Hope Act into law. This law allows undocumented non-citizens, who are unable to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) due to his/her immigration status, to apply for State Financial Aid through the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA) application.

    In addition to filling out the WASFA, students should look at this list of scholarships that are open to undocumented students. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) list can be found at As of 12.19.2016, the list was a year old. However, scholarship dates often change only slightly. Students should use the list for reference and research the particular deadlines and requirements for each scholarship. 


    CSS Profile 

    Almost 400 colleges use the CSS Profile to award grants and scholarships in addition to the FAFSA. Most of them are private institutions. See the CSS Profile List of Participating Institutions to see whether the colleges you are interested in use the profile. In Washington State, only Whitman College requires the CSS Profile. 
    The Profile counts income and assets differently than the FAFSA. For a summary, see Differences Between the FAFSA and Profile Forms. For an excellent article with sound advice, see Troy Onink's 2017 Guide to College Financial Aid, the FAFSA, and the CSS Profile Forbes Personal Finance

    WUE, or Western Undergraduate Exchange

    Western Undergradate Exchange, or WUE (pronouced woo-ee) is an agreement between some public colleges in Western states that gives students from those states a break on the out-of-state tuition. Not all public colleges participate, and not all degree programs are eligible at participating colleges. Check carefully well ahead of time. For general information:
    WUE Home on WICHE Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education 
    WUE Search by Institution Type, State, and Degree Type
    For information on particular schools, look on institutions' Financiail Aid websites. Follow the links in your WUE search and seach on the school website for WUE.
    Example 1: applicants to the University of Idaho who are residents of Washington or Oregon and who qualify under the requirements set by U of I will pay 150% of in-state tuition rather than 300% of in-state tuition like most out-of-state students. The qualifications include a GPA of at least 3.2 and  See University of Idaho Undergraduate Scholarships, and follow the links for Out of State and WUE. U of I does not require a separate application for WUE, but some schools do. 
    Example 2: applicants to Montana State must submit an application for admission and must complete a separate application for the WUE Scholarship. Recipients will pay 150% of in-state tuition rather than the usual out of state rate, which is approximately 300%. Students must apply early and should recognize that the awards are limited in number and competitive. See MSU Non Resident First Year Scholarships and select links for WUE. 

    National Student Exchange 

    National Student Exchange may be good for students who want a "study away" option during college rather than a "study abroad" option. They could spend a year at another institution while still paying the tuition for their home institution. The National Student Exchange (see is a unique, not-for-profit consortium of nearly 170 accredited, baccalaureate-granting colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Established in 1968, NSE has provided exchange opportunities to more than 113,000 students.

    NSE offers study opportunities at diverse university settings and provides access to a wide array of courses and programs; field experiences, co-op, and internship options; and resident assistant, honors, and study abroad opportunities of its member campuses.

    The program features a tuition reciprocity system that allows students to attend their host institution by paying either the in-state tuition/fees of their host institution or the normal tuition/fees of their home campus. Work completed while on exchange at the host campus is brought back to the home institution and credited to the student's degree program. Each campus has a coordinator who interacts on behalf of incoming and outgoing students with other member campuses and with various departments on their own campus.
    Links to other scholarship search engines
  – free scholarship search service. – free scholarship online matching service. Search for all scholarships at the colleges of your choice. – free information about ALL types of financial aid for college. – Website to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – The goal of this website is to educate students about scholarship access and the necessary requirements for achieving maximum financial aid.  There are also links to scholarship opportunities. – helping students find scholarships since 1998. – free information about scholarships. – source for grants, loans & scholarships. – general information about student financial aid.  Western Undergraduate Exchange.  Reduced out of state tuition awards for qualifying students from nearby western states.

    www.ProjectOpportunity.Netorganization promoting access to private colleges in WA. 

    www.CheckOutACollege.comadmission & financial aid info for Community/Technical colleges. 

    www.thewashboard.orgscholarships for students in WA State. – Scholarships for Hispanic Americans. – scholarships for low-income and minority students. – Northwest Education Loan Association, a LOCAL non profit center helping students with every step in the college admissions and financing process. – Provides information on the various types of scholarships associated with military service commitments.  Also available—a scholarship search for any scholarships for children of military officers or other connections through the military community. – Scholarships for Latino students. – Scholarships for Hispanic Americans. – Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund Scholarships, for Latino students. national scholarship site, but this one highlights awards given for some of the most random and unique eligibility requirements. – American Legion Scholarships – Information for international students – International Education Financial Aid: Information on studying abroad --scholarship match site

FAFSA/ Financial Aid Overview

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Financial Aid Process
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Paying for College Resources