Financial aid can make all the difference as far as some people are concerned with regard to being able to go to college.  But it is important to follow the process that will entail you getting the results – and the aid – you really need.  This is important no matter what financial situation you are in, and regardless of whether you are a single mom, a single parent or anyone else who wants to head back to college.

The first step you should take is to research just what is available out there.  For instance you will find that there are different types of financial aid you can apply for.  A grant is better in many ways than a loan, because you won’t have to repay it.  But you may find you are eligible for more than one source of aid, which means you could end up with a mix of both.

You will find that every grant or loan has a deadline by which you need to apply for it in order to be considered each year as well, so this forms the second essential step you have to think about.  Deadlines are vital because if you miss one, you miss out on being considered for that monetary aid.  There may still be others you can get, but if you know in advance when the relevant deadlines are you can be more prepared to get what you really want.

The third and perhaps most important step of all is to fill in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  This is known by its acronym, the FAFSA.  It is almost essential that you fill this out because you will find it very difficult to get anywhere without it.  What’s more it makes the whole process a lot easier to get through.  This is because you will receive a selection of offers once you have filled in the form and had it reviewed.  To put it into its most basic terms, it is like having someone look at the form and say ‘Hey, this is what ABC College will give you, and this is what XYZ College will give you,’ and so on.

And this provides you with the fourth essential step – make sure you go through all of those offers to consider which one is going to be the best one for you and your own personal circumstances.  For instance one college may be offering you more than another one, but you could find that the second one is a lot closer to home.  Always be sure to consider everything before making your decision.

Finally the journey does not end when you select a deal and move ahead with it.  This is the final step – you need to make sure the money you have been granted or loaned will cover all your needs and requirements.  If it won’t, ask yourself how you will find the missing money.  Make sure you explore all the opportunities and possibilities before you head off to start your college course.