After You File the FAFSA
Your first priority in January of your senior year should be to file the FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid), using your family's tax information from the previous year. This form is used by the federal government to determine need-based financial aid, and many colleges and universities use it to formulate their scholarship offers as well. In college, you will have to fill it out each January for the upcoming school year.
If you provided a working email address when you applied, you'll get an email within a few days with a secure link to access your FAFSA results—the Student Aid Report (SAR)—on the web. Within a few weeks of filing your FAFSA, you will receive a paper SAR.
The SAR confirms the information you sent on the FAFSA and tells you how much your family will need to contribute to your education—the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is used to determine the amount of federal aid you will qualify for.
Contact the financial aid administrator at the schools you're interested in attending. The schools will each follow up with a letter telling you how much aid (from all sources) that their school will offer you.