Get Familiar with FAFSA and Financial Aid

No matter your education path, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA. This is your ticket to earning grants, work study, loans and other financial aid that can help make your program more affordable.

Once you file, the U.S. Department of Education will send a Student Aid Report (SAR), which summarizes your eligibility information to the colleges specified on your FAFSA. From there, the colleges and universities will determine how much aid they can offer you.


edit f2Your Tasks: Understand the FAFSA application process, create your FAFSA ID and begin gathering the necessary documents.


Step 1: The financial aid process can get confusing. Watch this video to learn about financial aid.

Financial Aid Overview


Step 2: Create your FSA ID

As you saw in the video above, a FSA ID is a username and password that you must use to log into certain U.S. Department of Education websites. Your FSA ID identifies you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on U.S. Department of Education websites, such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid at


Step 2a: The FSA ID process is easy with a few easy steps. Watch this video to learn how to create a FSA ID..

FSA ID Video

 NOTE: To sign the FAFSA, you and a parent or legal guardian will each need to create a unique FSA ID. You cannot share an FSA ID with your parent or guardian.


Step 2b: Once you are ready to complete the FSA ID, go to the Federal Student Aid website

If you have questions as your completing your FSA ID, click the question mark to the right of the form or navigate to the help section of the FSA ID.


Step 2c: Once you create your FSA ID, remember to keep it safe! You can use your FSA ID immediately to complete and electronically sign your FAFSA.


Step 3: Now we’ll learn more about the FAFSA filing process. Watch this video to learn about the process.


edit f2Step 4: To prepare your FAFSA filing, you’ll need the documents listed below. Review the FAFSA  checklist in your CAM Workbook, and in the “Notes” section of the chart, write down any concerns or questions you have about each step. Here’s an example. 

Document  Do I have it available?   Questions or concerns?
 Social Security Number  Yes  
 Parents' Social Security Number  Yes  
 Your driver's license  Yes  
 Federal Tax Information
  • W-2 (for me and my parents)
  • IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ
  • Foreign tax return
  • Tax return for
  • Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau
 Yes I need to find my W-2 from my summer job last year.
Records of your untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits, for you, and for your parents  ?  This is confusing to me. I will have to ask my parents if any of these situations apply to me.
Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks and bonds and real estate (but not including the home in which you live); and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student ?  Will have to ask my parents for help.

Once you fill out this checklist, make sure to print out and download this practice worksheet from the U.S. Department of Education. This will help you and your family get ready to file your FAFSA.


Ready to file your FAFSA? Jump ahead to Submitting Your Financial Aid Applications.




 Mission Accomplished:  Show your CAM Ambassador your completed checklist to earn your stamp.



Prepare Your Applications 

You’ve explored, researched and analyzed. Now you have to decide which schools you want to apply to or whether you also want to complete a military or apprenticeship application. To do that, take a look at your Career to Program to School worksheet from Week 3 or reenter the information below for your top career choice: 

edit f2 Copy the information from your Matching Schools table from Week 3. 


 Career                                                Program/Major     Level of Education*   College/School(s) or Military 

 *Certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree

 If you are not going to continue your education right now and have decided to “stop out” for a bit, that’s OK!

edit f2If you are headed into the workforce, record your work plans in the box in your CAM Workbook. 


For your next steps, choose from these credential options:



Select Higher Education Programs

Now that you’ve identified a possible career path, it’s time to figure out what kind of education you’ll need.


edit f2Your Task: Use College In Colorado tools to identify three career possibilities and matching education and training pathways. 


Step 1: Click Your Portfolio > Career Planning Portfolio > Career Plans


Step 2: Scroll down to Career Cluster Survey. Under your Career Clusters, click View careers in this cluster.


Step 3: Review the careers you identified last week, or choose a new one using the Explore Careers links. You should have a list of at least three careers. Once you’ve navigated to a career, click What to Learn on the left navigation panel. Look at the Education Level and Extra Requirements sections. 

Week 3 Step 1


edit f2In your CAM Workbook, record your top three careers and level of education required for each. 

 Careers of Interest                          Education Required                                  


Step 4: Now look at the Beyond High School box. These are programs (sometimes called majors) that you can pursue to help you reach your career choice. 

 Week 3 Step 2


edit f2In the Matching Schools table in your CAM Workbook, write your top two careers in the first column and then list two programs for each career that sounds interesting. 

 Career                                             Program/Major      Level of Education     College/School(s)                                                                                    


Step 5: Now, click on the name of each program/major in the Beyond High School box. Read Just the Facts. In the table above, record the different level of education options (certificate, associate, etc.) that are available.


Step 6:  For each program, click Schools Offering This Program in the left navigation panel

Week 3 Step 3a


You will see the following screen.

Week 3 Step 3b

 Step 7: Look back to your favorite career list in your CAM Workbook. What level of education did it require? Click that level of education in the Find a School Offering this Program box. Then, pick Colorado from the dropdown list. Click GO.



  1. Not every school offers every program – or that exact title of program. If you don’t see college matches that you expect, go back to the “What to Learn” page of your career choice and select a related or more general program name from the Beyond High School box.
  2. Programs are offered at different levels of education. Sometimes you can get a certificate (one-year) or associates (two-year) program option at your local community college; some programs may only be offered as a four-year or even advanced degree.
  3. If you have your heart set on a particular program but don’t see a Colorado college listed, broaden your state selection to our region or the nation.


Step 8: As you find schools, click on their name to review information about them. Notice all the different tabs on the left that you can explore. 


ACC Matching School


edit f2In the Matching Schools table in your CAM Workbook, write down the colleges that sound most interesting to you. 




Mission Accomplished:  Show your CAM Ambassador your completed checklists to earn your stamp. 




Explore Higher Education Pathways

Many people think “higher education” means just four-year degrees, but there are multiple pathways available to you. For many good-paying jobs, a two-year degree or three-month certificate can set you up on a path to success.

edit f2Your Task: Use the College Application Tool to explore higher education pathways. 


Step 1: Open the College Admissions Tool.  Sign in using your CollegeInColorado account and click Option 1: Build Options

Week 1 Step 1


Step 2: Click Four-Year Colleges. Select the Benefits and Trade-Offs dropdown categories and readthrough the items for each category. Repeat for Two Year & Technical Colleges. 

Week 1 Step 2 v2 


Step 3: Now explore additional options by clicking the pathway options on the left side of your window: Apprenticeships, Private and Occupational & Technical Schools, U.S. Military and Direct to Work.

 Week 1 Step 3


Step 4: Complete the chart in your CAM Workbook as you explore. 

 Option  Summarize Benefits  Summarize Trade-Offs 
 Four-Year College  
 Two-Year & Technical Colleges    
 Private & Occupational Schools    
 U.S. Military    


Mission Accomplished:  Circle your favorite option in your CAM Workbook and have your CAM Ambassador stamp it. 


Identify Careers of Interests

Choosing your career path can seem overwhelming, so we’ve developed tools to help! The Career Cluster Survey will help you identify your unique talents and interests and match them with a suggested career field.


edit f2Your Tasks: Use the Career Cluster Survey to identify four careers of interest


Step 1: Navigate to Career Planning > Learn About Yourself > Career Cluster Survey. If you’ve already completed the Career Cluster Survey, click See your results now. 

Week 2 Step 1


Step 2: Complete the activities under the four sections: Activities You Like, Personal Qualities, School Subjects, Your Clusters


edit f2 Step 3: In your CAM Workbook, write a paragraph about your cluster results. Were you surprised? Why or why not?


Step 4: Next, click on the title of one of your top clusters; then click Careers. Click on a career and read about it using the tabs to the left.

Week 2 Step 2a

Week 2 Step 2b

Week 2 Step 3 v3


edit f2Step 5: In your CAM Workbook, identify your top two career choices in this cluster and write down one thing that surprised you about that career.


Step 6: Repeat Steps 4 and 5 for your additional career clusters.




Mission Accomplished: Once you write down your top four careers (two per cluster), show your CAM Ambassador to earn your stamp.




Want to explore more careers?

Colorado has plenty of training options in industries looking for talent. Learn how to get started by choosing a career pathway that leads to a job in demand with Careers In Colorado.

What's a personal essay? 

Many scholarship and college applications will require you to create a personal statement or an essay. These short, personal essays help the individual reviewing student applications to get a sense of who you are and what you care about. Sometimes the instructions with the application will specify a topic on which you must write, but often the topic or theme will be up to you.

In addition to noting whether a topic is specified, be sure that you understand directions from the college or scholarship sponsor regarding the maximum number of words or pages allowed for your personal statement or essay, whether it must be typed, the document format (such as line spacing), and any other technical submittal requirements.

Once you have an understanding of the technical requirements for submittal, now the creative part of writing a strong essay or personal statement begins. The CollegeBoard has a good tips and techniques page that may help you, summarized below.


  • Keep Your Focus Narrow and Personal. Essays that try to be too comprehensive end up sounding watered-down. Remember, it's not about telling the committee what you've done (they can pick that up from your list of activities) instead, it's about showing them who you are
  • Prove It. Develop your main idea with vivid and specific facts, events, quotations, examples, and reasons. There's a big difference between simply stating a point of view and letting an idea unfold in the details
  • Be Specific. Avoid clichéd, generic, and predictable writing by using vivid and specific details


  • Don't Tell Them What You Think They Want to Hear. Most admissions officers read plenty of essays about the charms of their university, the evils of terrorism, and the personal commitment involved in being a doctor. Bring something new to the table, not just what you think they want to hear
  • Don't Write a Resume. Don't include information that is found elsewhere in the application. Your essay will end up sounding like an autobiography, travelogue, or laundry list
  • Don't Use 50 Words When Five Will Do. Eliminate unnecessary words
  • Don't Forget to Proofread. Typos and spelling or grammatical errors can be interpreted as carelessness or just bad writing. Don't rely on your computer's spell check.

Ready to write? Fill out the  pdf Writing Your Essay (451 KB)  worksheet. Make sure to share with people you trust and proofread before you submit it. 

Click the “Read More” link below to view public and private two- and four-year colleges and universities including a link to their Application site.

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