Whether you are preparing to enter college or have been attending college for a while, how you plan to pay your tuition can be on your mind all the time. Fortunately, in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed higher education law, which states that the U.S. federal government is the primary provider of student financial aid. Since then, more 13 million students depend on financial aid. Although the process can be a bit daunting and time-consuming, the result will help ensure that you are able to afford the good education you deserve.

It is not because you subscribe to financial assistance that you are heavily in debt. Financial aid is much more than that. Fill the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) gives you the opportunity to get a scholarship through school, federal grants, work-study opportunities, and direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized loans.

It is important to note that when you receive a federal scholarship or grant, you do not have to repay them, except in special circumstances. You will need to repay these grants or scholarships if you leave school before the end of an enrollment period or if you receive a TEACH grant and do not meet your terms of service. For more information on grants, see student support site.

The work-study program gives students the opportunity to work part-time during their studies. This helps undergraduates and graduates with expenses that may arise. Only after completing your FAFSA can you qualify for work-study.

The two loans to watch are Subsidized direct loans and Direct unsubsidized loans. You will need to repay these two months after you graduate or after you stop attending school. The difference between these two loans is that the US Department of Education pays the 2.5% interest for the direct subsidized loan while you are enrolled in school until you leave. For direct unsubsidized loans, you are responsible for paying 2.5% interest for all periods. The fewer loans, the better.

According to FAFSAyou will need seven things before you start filling out your online form.

First, you will need to create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) account. It could be for yourself if you are considered independent. If you are a dependent, your guardian will also need to create an account, but the guardian and student will need separate accounts to complete the entire process. The FAFSA recommends doing this as early as possible (before October 1) to ensure it is approved on time.

Then you will need to have your social security card, or if you are not a US citizen, your Foreigner registration numberas well as a driver’s license (you can skip this step) to complete the process.

To complete the application, for the 2020-2021 FAFSA form, you will need to enter yours and your parent’s 2018 tax records if you are considered a dependent. You will also need to enter records of your untaxed income (this may not apply to everyone). Finally, prepare a list of schools that catch your eye. It’s okay if you haven’t applied or been accepted to these schools yet, but it’s best to list them early.

Although there are a lot of steps to complete the process, in the end it will be worth it. If you need help, you can always arrange a virtual meeting with an on-campus financial services counselor or visit the FAFSA website for more details.