Financial Aid Resources & FAFSA
What is FAFSA? The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (known as the FAFSA) is a form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid (including the Pell Grant, Federal student loans and Federal Work-Study).
FAFSA Q & A:
Do I have to pay to submit it?
NO NO NO NO NO. If you had to pay to submit, IT WAS A SCAM!
Do I HAVE to do it?
Yes. Schools require it. You cannot receive a scholarship without it. You cannot receive a loan or grant without it. Even if you plan to pay for college on your own or think your income level will be too high, you may be able to receive loans that you don’t have to pay back. The most popular is the “ TEXAS: Be on Time Loan.” Many students receive it, and the only criteria is that you go to school in Texas and graduate in 4 years. How awesome is that?
FILL OUT THE FAFSA.
Where do I find this form?
The FAFSA is available online at FAFSA on the Web.
You can download a paper copy at www.studentaid.ed.gov/PDFfafsa or call 800-4-FED-AID (433-3243).
When do I fill this form out?
The form becomes available each year for incoming college freshmen by JANUARY 1st. (Seniors only)
When is the deadline?
To be considered for federal student aid for the current award year, you can complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) between October 1rst and midnight Central Time, June 30th.
However, many states and colleges have earlier deadlines for applying for state and institutional financial aid. You can find your state’s deadline at https://www.fafsa.gov/deadlines. Check with your college about its deadlines.
FIRST COME FIRST SERVE. Note: Most schools have a March 1st PRIORITY deadline.
What do I need to fill this form out?
- Get a PIN. Get a U.S. Department of Education personal identification number (PIN) by filling out the short application at www.pin.ed.gov. Write this down somewhere you will remember.
- Your Social Security Number
- Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
- Your most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
- Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
- Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
- A Federal Student Aid PIN to sign electronically. (If you do not already have one, visit www.pin.ed.gov to obtain one.
- You will also need most of the above information for your parent(s)
What is a PIN?
A PIN is (almost always) a four-digit number that is used in combination with your Social Security number, name, and date of birth to identify you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on Federal Student Aid websites such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM) at www.fafsa.gov. If you are a parent of a dependent student, you will need your own PIN if you want to sign your child’s FAFSA electronically. If you have more than one child attending college, you can use the same PIN to sign all of their applications.
Your PIN is used to sign legally binding documents electronically. It has the same legal status as a written signature. Don’t give your PIN to anyone!
Where can I use my PIN?
When you first apply for your PIN, it is considered to be conditional until your information is verified with the Social Security Administration (SSA). You may sign your online FAFSA with it, but nothing else.
How do I get a PIN?
Go to www.pin.ed.gov and provide a few pieces of information such as your name, date of birth, Social Security number, and address.
You will be given the option of creating your own PIN or having the site create one for you. If the site creates one for you, you can choose to have your PIN displayed immediately on the screen. Otherwise, you can choose to receive an e-mail that will give you the link to a site where you can access your PIN. We won’t send your PIN to you in the e-mail itself for security reasons. Instead, we’ll ask you for some personal information to identify yourself before we show you your PIN.
What if I lose my pin?
If you have lost or forgotten your PIN, you need to request a duplicate. To do so, visit the PIN Home Page and select Request A Duplicate PIN from the list of options on the left side of the page. You will need to provide your challenge answer to request a duplicate PIN. When requesting a duplicate PIN, you can choose to either instantly view your PIN online or immediately receive an e-mail containing a hyperlink to your PIN.
If you think your PIN was compromised (i.e., you think someone else knows it), then you should not request a duplicate PIN; instead, you should change your PIN. You can choose your own new PIN, or we can randomly generate one for you. To change your PIN, select Change My PIN from the list of options on the left side of the PIN Home Page.
I am stuck. How do I get help on this application?
- For help, go to the free government website Completing the FAFSA. It has a detailed question-by-question guide to filling out the FAFSA.
- More free help can be found at FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions and Student Aid on the Web.
- You can also call:
Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC)
800-4-FED-AID (433-3243) / TTY 800-730-8913
Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight Eastern Time
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time
What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
When you file your taxes, your information will become available through FAFSA TWO WEEKS AFTER you file. This tool used in the form will transfer your income tax data directly from the IRS to your online FAFSA.
If you are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and choose to do so, you’ll be transferred from the online FAFSA to the IRS website, which will guide you through the transfer of your tax information. When you’re done, you’ll be sent back to your FAFSA.
What is an EFC?
Expected Family Contribution (EFC):
On the front page of the SAR, you'll find a figure called the expected family contribution (EFC). Your EFC is an indicator of your family’s financial strength. It is sent to your state scholarship agency as well as to the colleges you listed on the FAFSA. They use this number to determine your financial aid award. Learn more about the EFC.
How can I check to see whether my FAFSA has been processed?
You can check the status of your FAFSA immediately after submitting it online.
- Option 1: Go to www.fafsa.gov and click Start Here to log in.
- Option 2: Contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center.
If your FAFSA is still being processed, wait a few days before checking the status again.
Where does my FAFSA information go once submitted?
Your FAFSA information is shared with the colleges and/or career schools you list on the application. The financial aid office at a school uses your information to figure out how much federal student aid you may receive at that school. If the school has its own funds to use for financial aid, it might use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for that aid as well. (The school might also have other forms it wants you to fill out to get school aid, so check with the financial aid office to be sure.)
Your information also goes to your state higher education agency, as well as to agencies of the states where your chosen schools are located. Many states have financial aid funds that they give out based on FAFSA information.
So, your FAFSA helps you apply for federal, state, and school financial aid. Not bad for a form that takes students an average of less than half an hour to complete!
Who will I hear from, and when?
The office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the FAFSA data you submitted. You’ll get your SAR within three days to three weeks after you submit your FAFSA. Be sure to look over your SAR to make sure you didn’t make a mistake on your FAFSA. Find out more about the Student Aid Report, its purpose, how the type of FAFSA you file determines when you’ll get the SAR, and what you should do with it.
The SAR won’t tell you how much financial aid you’ll get. Instead, if you applied for admission to a college or career school and have been accepted, and you listed that school on your FAFSA, the school will calculate your aid and will send you an electronic or paper aid offer, sometimes called an award letter, telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at the school. The timing of the aid offer varies from school to school and could be as early as springtime (awarding for the fall) or as late as immediately before you start school. It depends on when you apply and how the school prefers to schedule awarding of aid.
How do I figure out what financial aid to accept and what to deny?
You’ll need to understand the aid that’s being offered (for instance, is it free money such as a grant, or is it a loan that you’ll have to pay back?), decide what aid you really need, and then respond to the school’s award letter within the deadline set by the school.
Order in which you should accept aid:
1: Scholarships and grants
Make sure you understand the conditions you must meet (for instance, you might have to maintain a certain grade-point average in order to continue receiving a scholarship, or your TEACH Grant might turn into a loan if you don’t teach for a certain number of years under specific circumstances).
You don’t have to pay the money back, but you do have to work for it, so take into account that that’ll mean less time for studying. However, research has shown that students who work part-time jobs manage their time better than those who don’t!
3 Federal student loans
You’ll have to repay the money with interest. Subsidized loans don’t start accruing (accumulating) interest until you leave school, so accept a subsidized loan before an unsubsidized loan.
4 Loans from your state government or your college
You’ll have to repay the money with interest, and the terms of the loan might not be as good as those of a federal student loan. Be sure to read all the fine print before you borrow.
5 Private loans
You’ll have to repay the money with interest, and the terms and conditions of the loan almost certainly will not be as good as those of a federal student loan.
How do I get my money?
The financial aid staff at your college or career school will explain exactly how and when your aid will be paid out. They also will tell you whether you need to fill out any more paperwork or meet other requirements. For instance, if you’re receiving a federal student loan for the first time, you should expect to be required to sign a promissory note and go through entrance counseling. Be sure to keep in touch with your school’s financial aid office so that you understand the whole process of receiving your aid.
The following are the need-based federal student aid programs:
- Federal Pell Grant
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
- Direct Subsidized Loan
- Federal Perkins Loan
- Federal Work-Study
When will my school send a financial aid package and what will be in it?
Do I need to do anything else for my college to apply the financial aid?
After you complete the FAFSA, make sure you submit any additional financial aid forms that your colleges require. For example, some colleges require you to submit the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® or their own forms.
My parents won't fill out FAFSA. What do I do?
This is an excellent article that explains all the different circumstances in which parents can't or won't pay for college. You should find some help here: