February 16, 2015 governmentgrants.info Staff
Do I need to file a FAFSA?
To be considered for federal financial aid, you must complete and submit a FAFSA. Additionally, most states, colleges and universities use the FAFSA to award other types of student aid, including state- and college-sponsored financial aid, such as grants, educational loans, and work-study programs.
What if I don't think I qualify for financial assistance?
Even if you think your family earns too much to qualify for aid, or too little for the aid to make much of a difference, students are encouraged to complete and submit a FAFSA.
Regardless of income, most families are eligible for multiple types of aid, such as federal loans (Stafford and PLUS), and students are often surprised by the amount of aid for which they qualify to receive. Filing is free, and unless you apply, you will never know how much assistance you may be eligible to receive.
When should I file my FAFSA?
File as early as possible, or at least before your college and state grant agencies' financial aid deadlines or preferred filing dates. Most student financial aid is limited (there isn't always enough for everyone who applies) and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, submitting your application early or on time ensures that you will be considered for the maximum amount of aid for which you may be eligible to receive.
What if I waited until the last minute? Can I still meet the deadline?
It depends on how you file. If you're filing by paper, you will need to factor in time for postal delivery of your application and 2-3 weeks for processing. When filing online using the Department of Education's website, you will also need to allow time to apply for and be issued a Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number (PIN) if you choose to sign electronically.
What if we haven't filed our taxes yet? Should we still complete a FAFSA?
Yes. You can estimate your income (using pay stubs, W-2s, 1099s, bank statements, etc.), and then make any necessary adjustments later once you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). There is no penalty for estimating your income on your FAFSA, although you will need to make any adjustments once your taxes are completed. It's better to estimate and file on time, so you will receive consideration for the maximum amount of aid available, rather than to file late and miss out on part (or all) of the aid for which you might have otherwise been eligible.
How long does it take to complete the FAFSA?
It depends. According to the Department of Education's FAFSA website, it generally takes 1-2 hours for individuals using their electronic filing services. When using the Department of Education's website, you and your parent(s) (for dependent students) will also have to apply for and wait for a Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number (PIN) if you choose to electronically sign your application. This can add up to a few days onto the processing time.
How do I know if I am a dependent or independent student?
The Department of Education uses a very rigid set of criteria for determining whether a student is independent for financial aid consideration (the custodial parents' income and asset information is not considered in determining a student's financial aid, and therefore not required on the FAFSA).
Regardless of how much support you may actually receive from your parents or legal guardians, you are still likely to be considered a dependent student for financial aid purposes unless you meet certain criteria (see FAFSA Dependency). Exceptions are granted rarely and only in extreme cases.
However, if you have special circumstances that you feel warrant consideration, and for which you may be able to provide documentation, you may contact your school's financial aid office. Only your school's financial aid office may issue a “dependency override” on the FAFSA application.
If you are considered a dependent student and do not provide your parents' information on your FAFSA, your application will be rejected.
What if my parents are divorced, remarried or widowed? Whose financial information do I include on my FAFSA?
You can use the following guidelines to help you determine which information to include on the application:
- If your parents are both living and married to each other, then provide information for both of them.
- If your parent is widowed or single, then provide information for that parent.
- If your parents are divorced or separated, provide information for your custodial parent. The custodial parent is the parent with whom you lived with most during the previous 12 months. If your parents have joint custody and you lived with each of them for the same amount of time, then include the information for the parent who provided you with the most financial support.
- If your widowed parent is remarried as of today, provide information for that parent and the person to whom your parent is married to (your stepparent). Note: If the stepparent was previously married and pays child support to an ex-spouse, this amount is treated as an income exclusion and is used to reduce your family's total income on the FAFSA.
What if I made a mistake? Can I make changes to my FAFSA?
If you used the Department of Education website to begin your FAFSA and then saved it, you may log in and make changes to your FAFSA on their website before it is submitted to the federal processor.
Once your FAFSA has been submitted to the federal processor by mail, electronically through the Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. FAFSA preparation and filing service, or the Department of Education website, you will need to wait until after it has been processed and a Student Aid Report (SAR) has been generated in order to make any necessary changes.
You have several options for making changes to the SAR:
- Make corrections on the 4-page paper SAR and mail it to the address listed on the last page. An updated SAR will be sent to you within 2-3 weeks.
- Make corrections directly onine at the Department of Education website by using a Federal Student Aid Personal - Identification Number (PIN). An updated SAR will be emailed to you, typically within 3 days.
- To add a college to your FAFSA application or to update a mailing address, you may call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243. You will need to provide them with the Data Release Number (DRN) that appears on the SAR in order for them to assist you.
- You may contact the financial aid office at your school and request that they make changes to your FAFSA/SAR record. If they are willing to do this, they will also need your DRN.
When will I receive my Financial Aid Award Notice?
Most financial aid offices begin sending Financial Aid Award Notices in the spring. You can call us or your school financial aid office to find out exactly when they will be sending them out. Be advised, however, that many financial aid offices will not begin preparing award packages until after you have been accepted for admission.
How will I know if my application has been rejected?
The Student Aid Report (SAR) is your record that the federal government has processed your FAFSA. To be sure that it was not rejected, you can look on the first page next to the letters EFC (Expected Family Contribution). If there are no numbers after the letters EFC, your application has been rejected and needs correction made. It is also possible that there may be a “C” after the letters EFC. This also means that corrections are required.
How can I check the status of my application?
There are several options for checking your application status:
- Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. users can log in to their My FAFSA account on our secure website to check their appication status online at any time.
- Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 to learn about the status of your FAFSA.
- Check the status of your application online through the Department of Education's website.
- Contact your school's financial aid administrators for information.
Do I have to submit a FAFSA every year?
Yes. You must file a FAFSA each year in order to be considered for most types of student financial aid, including non-need-based federal aid.
How do I file a FAFSA?
You have two options for completing and submitting (filing) a FAFSA:
1. Submit a FAFSA yourself by filling out and mailing a paper application.
2. Complete and electronically submit the application online through the Department of Education's website.