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How Do I Apply for AID?

To check on the status of your FAFSA

Using the “FAFSA Follow-up” section at

Calling 1-800-4-FED-AID.

Financial Aid

For more information, call New Mexico Student Loans

(505) 345-8821 or (800) 279-3070 (Mon.-Fri., 8 am-5 pm)

What documents do I need to fill out the FAFSA?

You will need records of income earned in the year prior to when you will start school. You may also need records of your parents' income information if you are a dependent student.

For each school year you will need financial information from previous year taxes. You may need to refer to:

  • Your Social Security card. It is important that you enter your Social Security Number correctly!
  • Your driver's license (if any)
  • Your  20___W-2 forms and other records of money earned
  • Your (and if married, your spouse's) 20___Federal Income Tax Return.

A Quick & Easy Guide to The Financial Aid Process

Between October and March each year, students should complete the FAFSA form to qualify for financial aid for the following school year. Doing so will allow students to  qualify for:


  • Federal and State Grants
  • Need-based financial aid issued by universities
  • Work-Study
  • Federally subsidized low-interest loans


In additional to need-based financial aid, students can also apply for merit-based scholarships. These will require a separate application or process. Scholarships are based on grades, or test scores, or a talent (such as athletic or artistic), or a competition (such as an essay writing contest). There are two sources of scholarships:


  • Institutional Scholarships from the colleges themselves
  • Outside Scholarships from civic organizations, businesses, religious institutions, and private individuals.



How the FAFSA Process Works


Step One Each college that you apply to creates a student budget. The budget is based on tuition, room & board, books, reasonable student expenses, etc. In other words, the budget is based on how much it will cost the typical student to live and study at that college for the school year.



Step Two Based on the information that you provide on the FAFSA, your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is determined. Your EFC is the amount that you and/or your parents are expected to contribute toward your education. Your EFC will essentially be the same at each college you apply to, regardless of how much it costs to attend that college.


The more money or assets that your family has, the higher your EFC will be. The less money your family has, the lower your EFC will be.


Let’s say you’re EFC is $1500. That means either you or your parents are expected to contribute $1500 next year to your education, and therefore you can’t qualify for financial aid on that amount. You can pay for this any way you want. The two most common ways are to (1) take the money out of savings, or (2) work. Many students work a part-time job over the summer, save the money, and then use that money as their EFC for the following school year.


Step Three The difference between the budget (step one) and the EFC (step two) is defined as “student need.” For example, imagine that you are applying to two colleges:


College A                                                        College B

Budget: (tuition & expenses): $10,000           Budget (tuition & expenses): $15,000          

EFC: $1500                                                     EFC: $1500

Student Need: $8500                                      Student Need: $13500


Notice that the EFC doesn’t change from school to school. Instead, what changes is the amount of student need. At both colleges, you or your parents will be expected to pay $1500 toward your education. The remainder is the difference between the budget and your EFC, and that’s why it is called your “student need.”



Step Four The colleges that you apply to (and submit your FAFSA information to) will make a financial aid offer to you. Each college will try to meet all or most of your need, depending on the amount of funds they have available. In general, if you submit your FAFSA by March 1, most colleges can meet most of your need either through grants, work-study, loans, or (more likely) a combination. But these funds are not unlimited. That’s why it’s important to submit your FAFSA by March 1.


Each college will send you an itemized offer and you can choose whether to accept everything they offer or only parts of what they offer.


            College A’s Offer                                            College B’s Offer

            EFC: $1500                                                     EFC: $1500

            Student Need: $8500                                      Student Need: $13,500

            Accept of Reject the following:                      Accept or Reject the following:

      --Pell Grant: $3500                                         --Pell Grant: $3500

      --State Grant: $1000                                       --State Grant: $1000

      --Work Study: $2500                                      --Institutional Grant: $2000

                        --Loans: $1500                                                --Work Study: $2500

            Unmet Need: $0                                                          --Loans: $4500

                                                                                    Unmet Need: $0        



Notice that both colleges came up with enough financial aid to cover all of your need, but the offer included some loans. These loans are federally-subsidized low-interest loans. That means that the government pays the interest while you are in college. Then, six months after you graduate (or leave college), you begin repaying the loans.



Step Five You can compare financial aid offers from each college and then decide where to attend and whether to accept various parts of the financial aid offer. Each part of the offer can be accepted or rejected. For example, a student can accept the grants and work study, but reject the loans. But if he rejects the loans, he’ll have to come up with another way of paying for the amount covered by those loans.


That’s where scholarships come in. Good students have a much easier time paying for college because both institutional scholarships and outside scholarships can reduce or eliminate the need to borrow money. Look at the following example:


Mediocre Student applying to College B                      Good Student Applying to College B

Student Need: $13,500                                                 Student Need: $13,500

Pell Grant: $3500                                                          Pell Grant: $3500

State Grant: $1000                                                        State Grant: $1000

Institutional Grant: $2000                                               Institutional Grant: $2000

Work Study: $2500                                                        Institutional Scholarship: $4500

Loans: $1500                                                                 Work Study: $2500

                                                                                        Loans: $0


Notice that the good student earned a scholarship at College B, which meant there was no need to borrow any money. Grants are based on a student’s need, while scholarships are based on a student’s merit. Both students came from a disadvantaged background, so they both qualified for lots of grant money. But the good student also qualified for a scholarship, and therefore didn’t have to borrow any money at all.



Step Six You can appeal an offer from a college if you feel that it unduly burdens you. The college is under no obligation to act on your appeal, but most colleges want to do what they can to make college affordable for students that the admissions office has accepted. To appeal, you can write or call a financial aid office and explain that you really want to attend a college but can’t unless you are given more money. Colleges have been known to make adjustments to offers to students who (1) show a genuine desire to attend that university, (2) demonstrate genuine need or a change in circumstances, and/or (3) are willing to work to contribute to the payment of their own education (as opposed to a student who rejects work study and wants the entire bill to be paid with grants).

(Prepared By High Horizons)

The Federal Student Aid PIN

You are not required to have a PIN to complete and submit a FAFSA on the Web application. However, it is the fastest way to sign your application and have it processed. It is also the only way to access your data online.

If you would like to apply for a PIN, go to Federal Student Aid’s PIN Web site at and click Apply For A PIN.

Follow the instructions on that Web site to apply for and receive your PIN.

To request a PIN:

  1. Go to Federal Student Aid's PIN Web site at COMING SOON
    • If you have never received a PIN, choose Apply For A PIN.
    • If you have a PIN but have lost or forgotten it, choose Request A Duplicate PIN.
    • If you think someone else knows your PIN, choose Change My PIN.
  1. Answer the questions that appear on the screen. You must indicate how you would like to receive your PIN.
  2. Verify your mailing address and e-mail address.
  3. Click the Submit Request button and wait for the confirmation page to appear.

If you choose to have the PIN displayed now, we will display it on the confirmation page.

If you choose to have the PIN e-mailed to you, we will send an e-mail immediately notifying you that your PIN has been created and how to retrieve it.

If you choose to have the PIN mailed to you, we will mail it to the mailing address on file. It may take 7-10 days for you to receive it.

You should not request a duplicate PIN if you think your PIN has been compromised. Instead, you should change your PIN if you think someone else knows it. You can choose your own new PIN, or we can randomly generate one for you. To change your PIN, click Change My PIN on the left side of the PIN Home Page.

To ensure that your PIN e-mail notification is delivered to your e-mail inbox, enter our originating e-mail address,, into your e-mail address book.

Guidelines for Comparing Financial Aid Offers

If you have been accepted to two or more colleges, and if you have had your FAFSA reports submitted to those colleges, you will receive a financial aid award letter from each college.  Each college’s financial aid office makes a decision about financial aid on their own.  The FAFSA results tell them how much federal and state money you qualify for, but it’s up to each college to decide to offer the money to you or to someone else.


When you begin to receive your financial aid letters, follow these steps:

Step One: Deadline Dates and Waiting

Every letter will include a date by which you need to accept the financial aid offer. If you don’t accept by that date, the offer may be rescinded. At the same time, you can’t compare financial aid offers until you receive them all! So, you want to wait until you receive them all but yet don’t let the deadline dates pass!


Step Two: Family Contribution

Every award letter will indicate how much you and your family are expected to pay toward your own education. Some letters split it between parent and student contributions. Others combine it and call it a “family contribution.”

The family contribution should be nearly identical on all of your financial aid letters. This is because it is determined by FAFSA and not by the school’s themselves. The exception is if you have been granted a full scholarship by a university, in which case the entire cost of a year’s education will be covered and no family contribution is expected.

If you notice that the family contribution on one letter is significantly higher or lower than on any other letter, that’s very unusual. If it’s higher, you should contact the financial aid office at that college and ask why the family contribution is so much higher than it was at other colleges.


Step Three: Unmet Need

  • Each award letter will indicate if they weren’t able to help you cover your entire cost of education. Here’s how it works:
  • Every college establishes a budget for you, based on your residency, your marital status, and whether or not you’ll live on campus or not.
  • They then subtract the amount of your expected family contribution.
  • The amount remaining is called your need.
  • Then, the college offers you a financial aid package. The goal is for the financial aid package to cover your entire need.
  • If the package meets your entire need, the amount of “unmet need” is zero. This is a good thing. If the college was not able to meet your entire need, the amount of “unmet need” will be greater than zero.
  • You’ll have to figure out a way to pay for any “unmet need” on your own (in addition to your expected family contribution). Therefore, if the amount of  “unmet need” is high, you might consider going to a different college instead.


Step Four: Compare the Details of the Financial Aid Packages

If you have more than one financial aid award letter that has met all or almost all of your need, you need to compare how the college met your need. Some packages are better than others.


Focus on these things:

  • Grants are good. You don’t have to pay them back.
  • Scholarships are good. You don’t have to pay them back. But beware: some scholarships are renewable, others are non-renewable. If a scholarship is renewable, it means you can get it again next year as long as you continue to meet the qualifications of the scholarship. If you don’t, you won’t get the scholarship again. If the scholarship is non-renewable, it means it’s only good for next year, and you have no chance to get it again the following year.
  • Work-Study is pretty good. You don’t have to pay it back, but you have to work for it. If you accept work-study, it means you’ll have a job on campus to earn that money. Talk to the financial aid office to determine how many hours you’ll need to work each semester in order to earn the amount of the work-study award.
  • Loans are bad, because you have to pay them back. However, federally subsidized loans are the best loans you can get, because the government will pay the interest on the loans for as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student, and the interest rates are really low once you start repaying after you graduate from college (or drop-out).
  • If you are offered loans, you don’t have to accept them, but then you’ll have to figure out how to get the money on your own.
  • Before deciding that you don’t want to accept any loans, consider the size of the loan. If you really like two colleges, and one offered a lot of loans and another one didn’t, then it might be a good idea to attend the college that didn’t. However, if one college offered $1000 in loans and another college offered $2000 in loans, you’ll have to decide if the second college is worth borrowing more to attend.


Step Five: Consider an Appeal, and then Make a Decision

After you’ve reviewed all the letters, you’ll need to make a decision by the deadline date. It’s possible to appeal for more money [see the handout entitled Appealing For More Financial Aid]. Once you have your final offers, you need to make a decision.


When deciding, consider these things:

  • Follow your heart. You won’t succeed in college simply because one costs less than another. You’ll succeed if you want to be there and if you are willing to work hard. Financial considerations are very important, but they aren’t the only things that are important.
  • Follow your head, too. Borrowing a little bit of money might be worth it to attend the college of your choice, but borrowing a ton might not be a good idea. This has to be weighed against your long-term goals. Do you intend to go to graduate school? If so, and if you borrow money for that, too, you might end up with a huge burden of debt.

Remember, you have to reapply for financial aid every year. Chances are, if your life doesn’t change much, you’ll qualify for most of the same grants, loans and work-study programs for your sophomore year as you did in your freshman year, but there are no guarantees. Lots of things can happen—tuition might increase a lot, or you or a family member might lose a job. Also, don’t forget to check if your scholarships are renewable or non-renewable. Even if they are renewable, you’ll have to continue to meet the conditions for the scholarship to get it again next year.

If you plan to work (in addition to work-study), you need to be especially careful. For example, some students work in a job off campus for extra money, or to meet their part of the expected family contribution. Some students decide to decline loans and instead work 25 or 30 hours a week. There are two problems with this decision: (1) you’ll be working a lot instead of studying a lot, and (2) if you earn a lot of money, your financial aid award might be less next year. Why? Because the way the FAFSA works, the more money you make, the more you’re expected to pay for your own education! So, if you work a lot next year, you might end up with a much higher expected family contribution the following year, and then you’ll have to work even harder the following year!


Good luck!

Prepared by High Horizon

After Completing Your FAFSA

The Student Aid Report (SAR)

After you submit your FAFSA, a Student Aid Report (SAR) will be generated and sent to you.

  • If you submitted your FAFSA electronically and have an e-mail address, you will receive your SAR in a few days
  • If you submitted your FAFSA by mail, you will receive your SAR in a few weeks.
  • Your SAR will automatically be sent to the schools designated on your FAFSA.


Be sure to check the information on your SAR to make sure it is correct. The schools that you indicated on your FAFSA will also receive the same information. If you need to make corrections to the SAR you can do so by either of the following methods:

  • Making corrections online through “FAFSA Follow-up” section at
  • Returning the corrected and signed paper SAR for reprocessing.


NOTE: You MUST NOT make any changes to income or asset information if that information was correct at the time you submitted the original application.


Award Letters

If you are eligible for financial aid, each school that you are accepted by will send you an “award letter” telling how much and which type(s) of financial aid it will offer you. Compare your award letters carefully to determine which offer is best for you. If the best financial aid offer doesn’t come from your first choice school, you may be able to negotiate with that school. Unless otherwise stated, the award letter applies only to the upcoming school year.


Award letters show the college’s Cost of Attendance and the types and amounts of financial aid being offered. Aid types include:

  • Grants and school-based scholarships that are free aid offered to students
  • Student loans and parent-PLUS loans that need to be repaid
  • Work-study programs.


Read the fine print and make sure you understand all of the terms and conditions before you decide whether to accept or not accept. Pay attention to deadlines—if you miss the deadline you may lose your award.


If you did not complete your FAFSA on-site today, remember to…

  • Gather any missing information
  • Complete and submit the FAFSA within 45 days from the day you started. Otherwise, your information may be erased and you will have to start the process over.

To check on the status of your FAFSA at any time…

  • Using the “FAFSA Follow-up” section at
  • Calling 1-800-4-FED-AID.