Guide to Financial Aid

In 2015 over two-thirds of students in America used some sort of financial aid to help them pay for school. Fast forward to now, and the need has only increased, so you’re not alone in looking for ways to supplement your tuition. But where do you begin? That’s where Minnesota School of Cosmetology comes in.

To make it a little easier to understand, we broke financial aid down into three stages: Prepare, Apply, and Await. See below for a step-by-step guide. If at any time you want to talk with a human, call Minnesota School of Cosmetology at 877-541-8777and we’ll help you get everything straightened out.

It wouldn’t be the government if there weren’t acronyms, right?

Here’s the financial aid acronym cheat sheet.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

This is the application you’ll use for both federal and state aid. Everyone always calls it the FAFSA, so don’t worry if you forget what the letters stand for.

FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification)

This is a unique username and password you choose. You’ll use it when filling out the FAFSA, signing documents, and so on

SAR (Student Aid Report)

A couple weeks after you apply, you’ll get a report telling you what aid you’re eligible for and what amount your family is responsible for contributing. You don’t have to accept all the aid listed; the SAR just tells you what you qualify for.

EFC (Expected Family Contribution)

If you’re a “dependent student” (typically age 24 or younger), the government considers it your family’s responsibility to help you go to college. The EFC is the dollar amount the Department of Education expects your family to chip in to meet the costs of sending you to school

STEP 1: Prepare

Become familiar with the different types of aid

As a prospective student, you have a variety of financial aid options available, but keep in mind, one size does not fit all. Your unique situation and need will determine what you qualify for. The U.S. Department of Education lays out your options pretty well

Pro Tip:

Look for free types of aid first. Things like grants, military discounts, or employee tuition reimbursement benefits do not need to be repaid and can make tuition more affordable.

Get your Federal Student Aid ID

To apply for federal aid, you'll need to set up a username and password specifically for financial aid. The government calls this a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID), and you'll use it to access your financial aid information on some of the U.S. Department of Education websites and to electronically sign federal student aid documents like the FAFSA.

Pro Tip:

Your FSA ID is used to electronically sign legally binding documents related to your financial aid application, so make sure not to give your FSA ID to anyone, as this can lead to identity theft.

Determine whether you're a dependent or independent student

Both your and your family are typically responsibility to send you to college, so if you're a "dependent student," the government will ask for your parents' info when determining how much aid you qualify for. If you're an independent student but married (and filing your taxes jointly), your spouse's income will be taken into account.

Pro Tip:

Unfortunately, your level of personal maturity doesn't make much difference to the Office of Student Aid -they only take into account how old you are, whether you're serving in the military, if you have your own children to support, and so on. If you're under 24, it's a good idea to check if you're considered dependent.

Collect the necessary tax information in advance

In order to complete government financial aid applications, such as FAFSA, you will need FSA ID, social security number, federal income tax returns, W-2s (tax forms that report your salary), and other records of money earned.

Pro Tip:

Gather the required info from your parents (if you're considered dependent) or your spouse (if you're married) before starting the FAFSA. Having these documents ready will speed up the application process significantly.

Step 2: APPLY

Know your deadlines

The best way to find out how much federal aid you qualify for is by completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Renewal FAFSA. Access the FAFSA online at as soon as possible after October 1, but before June 30 each year. Be sure to list Minnesota School of Cosmetology as a school choice when completing the FAFSA.

Pro Tip:

Always apply for the FAFSA regardless of your situation. Students who need to borrow money for college first have to fill out the FAFSA.

Explore and apply for additional scholarships

Minnesota School of Cosmetology offers several scholarships. Apply for our professional certification scholarship and be eligible for reimbursement on required certification exam fees.

Pro Tip:

There are scholarships out there for almost anything. Left-handed? There's a scholarship. Like asparagus? You're in luck. Do your research and hunt down all the available options outside of federal aid. A little Googling can go a long way.

Step 3: REVIEW

Review your Student Aid Report

After you submit your FAFSA, you will receive an important document from the U.S. Department of Education within two weeks: the Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR will provide your expected family contribution (EFC) and other information about your student aid and what you're eligible for. We will use this information to determine your financial need.

Pro Tip:

Be sure to provide a valid email address on your FAFSA so you can receive emailed instructions on how to access an online copy of your Student Aid Report.

Find out which grants and loans you qualify for

Set up a one-on-one meeting with a member of the financial aid staff to review which grants and loans you qualify for. Keep in mind, you may have to complete additional paperwork for your financial aid award.

Pro Tip:

Be smart about borrowing. Borrow only what you need to cover your costs, not what you are eligible to receive.

More Questions? Check out our Common Sense Guide to Financial Aid

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