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What Happens After You Apply for Financial Aid


It's great that you want to become a nurse, as this rapidly-growing profession needs plenty of help.  But like many, you may need some financial support when it comes to pursuing your dream, as nursing school does cost money.

The FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR)

After you file your FAFSA, it goes to Federal Student Aid's Central Processing System (CPS). The CPS analyzes your financial information and calculates your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), an estimate of the amount you and your family can afford to contribute to your education. College financial aid offices use this number to determine your financial need in relation to other applicants', and to distribute funds accordingly.

Federal Student Aid reports the results of their EFC calculation in the Student Aid Report (SAR). You can expect to receive a copy of your SAR two to three weeks after you submit your FAFSA on the Web, four to six weeks if you mailed in a hard copy. The schools you designated in the application and your state aid office also receive this report.

Revising Your Financial Data

FAFSA. The SAR reports the information you provided in your application and your Expected Family Contribution. Review this information carefully to make sure it's accurate. If there are any errors or updates, you can correct the data electronically, or by making changes directly on the paper SAR and mailing it to the address provided.  

FAFSA "Corrections on the Web" is the quickest and easiest way to make changes. To access it, go to the FAFSA website and select "Make Corrections to a Processed FAFSA."

If there are any special circumstances that impact your ability to pay for college (such as unemployment, medical expenses or other emergencies), notify the schools' financial aid offices directly.


 The CSS PROFILE's version of the SAR is the PROFILE Acknowledgement. If you submitted a CSS PROFILE, review this record of your financial information carefully. Unlike the SAR, you cannot make changes to the Acknowledgement online. Contact the colleges directly to correct information.

Your Financial Aid Package

Each school will create a financial aid package for you based on your financial need. The package will feature some combination of the available funding sources: federal, state, school, and private grants and loans, and federal work-study.

Each financial aid offer you receive will be unique, so be sure to evaluate and compare the terms carefully. Because of the different funding types, it's not always obvious which package offers the best deal overall. Pell Grants, Direct Loans, and Federal Family Education Loans will be part of the package, as long as you qualify. But other funding such as federal supplemental grants, work-study, and private financial aid will vary from school to school.

Evaluating the Award Offer

The financial aid package you receive with your college admission offer will look something like this:

Sample Financial Aid Award Package

Total Cost of Attendance


Expected Family Contribution


Outside Scholarship


Financial Need



Federal Pell Grant


State Scholarship Grant


Institutional Grant


Federal Perkins Loan


Federal Direct Loan


Federal Work-Study


Total Award


COMPARE your financial aid packages, taking into account the following factors:

  • Grant-to-Loan Ratio. How much of the funding comes from grants, how much from loans?
  • Stability. Can you expect the same level of funding in future years? How stable are these grant and/or loan sources?
  • Gaps. Does the package leave a gap between your demonstrated need and the amount of the offer? Can you cover the difference?
  • Loan Terms. Evaluate the interest rates and repayment terms of the loans offered.
  • Size of Your Share. If your package includes work-study, are you willing to take an on-campus job? If not, consider whether you can make up this amount elsewhere.
  • External Funding Terms. Will this offer change if you receive outside funding as well? Some colleges reduce their financial aid or loan offer if you are awarded an external scholarship.

Federal Student Aid offers an Award Worksheet to help you interpret the figures on your award offer.  Once you've accepted an offer, the school's financial aid office will contact you with any further instructions.  The real college funding adventure begins after you file your applications. Be sure to follow through, reviewing your financial report and evaluating your award offers with as much care as you applied to the application itself.





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