College Readiness

Federal Student Aid Commission


  • Create a username and password called a FSA ID that you'll use to confirm your identity when accessing your government financial aid information and electronically signing your federal student aid documents. Learn about the FSA ID, and create yours. Note: You must create your own FSA ID; if your parent creates it for you, that will cause confusion later and will slow down the financial aid application process. Watch the video to the left about creating your FSA ID.

  • Narrow down the list of colleges you are considering attending. If you can, visit the schools that interest you.

  • Contact colleges to request information and applications for admission. Ask about financial aid, admission requirements, and deadlines.

  • Decide whether you are going to apply for admission under a particular college's early decision, early action, or regular decision program. Be sure to learn about the program deadlines and requirements.

  • Use the Federal Student Aid Estimator, and compare the results to the actual costs at the colleges to which you will apply. To supplement any aid FAFSA4caster estimates you might receive, be sure to apply for scholarships. Your goal is to minimize the amount of loan funds you borrow so you have less to pay back later.

Parent Checklist


  • Take a look at your financial situation, and be sure you're on the right track to pay for college.

  • Get in-depth information on the federal student aid programs.

  • Create your own FSA ID if you don't have one yet. (The FSA ID is a username and password that you will use for such purposes as signing your child's Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) Note: You must create your own FSA ID. If your child creates it for you, or if you create your child's, that will cause confusion later and will slow down the financial aid application process. (Need help? You and your child should watch the "How to Create an Account Username and Password (FSA ID)" video.)

  • Talk to your child about the schools they are considering. Ask why those schools appeal to your child, and help them clarify goals and priorities.

  • Attend college fairs with your child, but don't take over the conversation with the college representatives. Just listen, and let your child do the talking.

  • Take your child to visit college campuses, preferably when classes are in session.

  • Make sure your child is looking into or already has applied for scholarships.

  • Ask your employer whether scholarships are available for employees' children.

  • Learn about student and parent loans in Federal Student Loans: Basics for Students and Federal Student Loans: Direct PLUS Loan Basics for Parents.

Resources for Students and Parents


Regional Community Colleges

CSU, UC, and Common App Colleges and Universities