Sara Routhier, Managing Editor of Features and Outreach, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming worl...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 8, 2011

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The first step to applying for a federal student loan is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, online. This form allows the U.S. Department of Education as well as schools to obtain an understanding of the student’s family’s financial situation.

To fill out this form and receive a student loan, a student will need the documents containing all his or her personal and financial information. These include: Social Security card, driver’s license, W-2 forms, Federal Income Tax Return for both the student and his or her parents, current bank statements and any business or investment mortgage information; however, after the first year the student will fill out a FAFSA Renewal Form, which makes the process easier by filling in some information from the previous year.

From the information in the FAFSA, the Department of Education determines the Expected Family Contribution, which is the department’s estimate of the amount the student’s family is financially able to pay for his or her education. After the FAFSA is processed, the results are sent to the schools to which the student has applied so that they can determine eligibility for financial aid. The student and his or her parents must fill out the FAFSA each year in school to account for any changes in their financial situation. The federal financial aid deadline is June 30 of each year.

Once the student has completed the FAFSA, been assigned an Expected Family Contribution and received a financial aid package from your school, he or she must still apply separately for any loans received. Filing the FAFSA does not automatically apply for any loans.