Applying for Financial Aid

Who should apply for financial aid?


Every student who would like help with college costs. Do not assume you are not eligible for financial aid.​​

How do I apply for financial aid?


Each year, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA. By filing a FAFSA, you will be considered for:

  • State of Maryland financial aid
  • Federal financial aid
  • Institutional financial aid

Check with all the colleges you are considering applying to for their financial aid requirements and deadlines. They may have supplemental forms you need to complete.​​​​

Where can I get a FAFSA?


FAFSAs for the new school year can be filed after January 1st prior to the academic year for which you are applying. You can get them from:

Online (electronically) by accessing​

If you do not have access to file online, you may call 1-800-433-3243 to obtain a paper copy.​​​

When do I apply?


It is recommended that the FAFSA or renewal FAFSA be filed between October 1 and March 1 each year. It must be received by the federal processor no later than March 1 to receive the fullest consideration for State grants.​​

NOTE: College deadlines may differ; check with all the colleges you are considering for their deadlines.​​​​​​​​

What kind of information do I need to put on my FAFSA?


The FAFSA asks for your family’s financial information. You and your parents (if you are a dependent student) will complete the FAFSA. You will each need to use information from your most recent Federal income tax returns.

NOTE: Filling out your tax return first will make completing the FAFSA easier. However, if you or your parents won’t have your current year tax returns done before the March 1 deadline, use last year’s returns to carefully estimate your answers on the FAFSA. You can correct them later.

Along with the tax return information, you may need:

  • Bank Statements
  • W-2 forms
  • Benefit Statements from Social Security, Social Services, or other agencies as applicable.

These items are required even if you and your parents (if you are dependent) will not file a Federal income tax return.

Other things you should know about filing a FAFSA:

  • You and your parents (if you are a dependent student) will need Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) to sign the FAFSA electronically. PINs can be obtained online when you file your FAFSA.
  • Errors on your FAFSA could result in losing an award. Complete the FAFSA carefully and accurately.
  • For assistance with the form, call the U.S. Department of Education Student Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
  • Maryland requires that you list your actual Maryland street address on the FAFSA, even if you use an APO or a Post Office Box.
  • List all schools you are considering attending. You may list up to 10 schools online.
  • Include a Maryland college for Maryland financial aid consideration.
  • List the Federal Title IV Institution Code for each school. This can be obtained from
    • High School
    • College financial aid office
    • U.S. Department of Education, 1-800-433-3243
    • Public Library
    • Maryland Higher Education Commission

If the Title IV code cannot be found, enter the college’s full name, city and state.​​​

What happens after I apply?


Your FAFSA will be checked for completeness. If an item is left blank, the form may not be processed or will be returned to you. This could cause your application to be late.

An electronically filed FAFSA will take approximately 3 days to process. A paper FAFSA application will take about four weeks to process.

After the FAFSA is processed, you will receive a report of your answers to the FAFSA questions via email if you filed electronically or via regular mail if you filed a paper FAFSA. This is called a Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR will tell you your expected family contribution (EFC). This is how much money you and your family are expected to contribute toward your college expenses.​​​​

What if I have to make changes to my FAFSA?


Review your SAR carefully. If you need to make corrections, you may do so online using your PIN. You may also make address and school corrections online. If you filed a paper FAFSA, you may make corrections directly on your SAR. Be sure to correct any information that was estimated.

If you make corrections after March 15, be sure to send a copy of the reprocessed SAR to the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Keep a copy for your records.​​​

Should I use the services of a consultant to help find scholarships or to help me complete the FAFSA?


Make sure you are not paying for services that are available for free from your high school guidance office, the public library, a college financial aid office, the Internet, or from the Maryland Higher Education Commission.​

How does the State determine how much aid I’m eligible for?


When you file the FAFSA, your information is processed using a formula from the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, and the result is your EFC. The Maryland Higher Education Commission uses your EFC to calculate your eligibility for Maryland financial aid.

Schools will award a Federal Pell Grant to students whose EFC falls below a certain level. The amount of a Pell Grant is determined by EFC and enrollment status (full-time, part-time)

Your financial need for State awards is the difference between:

  • Cost of Attendance
  • EFC
  • Federal Pell Grant (if any)
  • Certain other State awards (if awarded)​

What other requirements do I have to meet to be eligible?


Students and parents (if a dependent student) must be Maryland residents for:

  • 12 months prior to starting a four-year college
  • 3 months prior to starting a two-year college
  • 3 months prior to starting a private career school

To be considered Maryland residents you must meet all of the following conditions;

  • Own, rent, or occupy living quarters in Maryland
  • Keep most of your personal property in Maryland
  • Pay Maryland income tax on any of your earned income
  • Register all vehicles in Maryland
  • Have a valid Maryland driver’s license (if you drive)
  • Be registered to vote in Maryland (if you are registered to vote)
  • Receive no public assistance from another state or entity

Be active duty military (or a dependent of) stationed in Maryland; or

Be Maryland residents in the military who are stationed elsewhere

To be considered independent, you must meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • You are age 24 or older.
  • You are married.
  • You are a graduate or professional student beyond a bachelor’s degree.
  • You have a dependent other than a spouse.
  • You are a member or veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • You are an orphan, foster child, or ward of the court
  • You are emancipated or in a legal guardianship
  • You are an unaccompanied homeless youth

Enrollment requirements are as follows:

  • Full-time undergraduate: 12 credits or more
  • Part-time undergraduate: 6 to 11 credits
  • Full-time graduate student: 9 or more credits
  • Part-time graduate student: 6 to 8 credits​

What is verification?


Approximately one-third of all students who apply for financial aid are required to supply documentation that will verify the information they reported in the FAFSA. If you are selected for verification you may be required to provide to your institution:

  • A completed verification worksheet
  • IRS Tax Return Transcripts for (yours and your parents, if dependent)
  • W-2 forms, if requested
  • Statements from agencies from which benefits were received, if any

A difference between the information you listed on your FAFSA and the information provided for verification could result in the reduction or loss of your award.​​​​​

How will I know if I am awarded financial aid?


You will receive award notifications from the State of Maryland and from the colleges to which you have been admitted. Review these notifications carefully and update any incorrect information on the letter. Awards must be accepted.

Please note that award notifications may be sent via email. It is your responsibility to ensure that you check your email inbox and spam folders for any notifications.​​​

How is my college notified of my award?


The Maryland Higher Education Commission notifies each college by sending them a list of students who have been offered State financial aid.​

When is my award paid to my college?


Four to six weeks after your college certifies your enrollment, your award will be processed for payment to the college. Some schools may credit the money to a student’s account prior to that time.​

Can I appeal the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s decision?


Yes, for several situations. Call or write to the Maryland Higher Education Commission for details.​​