Frequently Asked Questions
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32. There are some special (or extenuating) circumstances in my family (my grandmother lives with us and my mom just got her work hours reduced). Is there any way to appeal my financial aid award package?
To be eligible, you must
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Have a valid Social Security number
- Comply with Selective Service registration, if required
- Have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) Certificate or pass an approved ability-to-benefit (ATB) test
- Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program at a school that participates in the federal student aid programs
- Not have a drug conviction for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, loans, or work-study)
- Not owe a refund on a federal grant, not be in default on a federal student loan, or have satisfactory arrangements made to repay the overpayment or default
- Demonstrate financial need (except for unsubsidized Stafford Loans)
Contact your financial aid office or look online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ for additional information.
Your eligibility for aid depends on your Expected Family Contribution, your year in school, enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school you will be attending. Your school's financial aid office will tell you how much you can receive at that school.
Yes! The federal government has a formula that determines the amount your family is expected to contribute to your college costs. Any costs above that have a chance to be covered by financial aid. Plus, there are few sources of financial aid not based on need such as the unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans. The FAFSA form is free so there's no reason not to apply.
Financial aid is available for students attending at least half-time. Part-time students attending at least half time do need to fill out the FAFSA to see what financial aid they are eligible for.
What kind of financial aid can I get to attend a vocational or technical school, or to take online classes?
Generally, the same types of financial aid are available for vocational, technical and online classes. Ask your financial aid office to ensure that the degree or certificate program in which you are enrolled meets financial aid eligibility.
No. Contact your school to find out if they participate in the Federal Student Aid program.
You must have a Social Security number (SSN) to be eligible for federal student financial aid. If you submit a FAFSA without an SSN, your FAFSA will be returned to you unprocessed.
Is a student who has a Permanent Resident Card and who has a Social Security card that states it is for work only eligible to receive financial aid?
The student is eligible for federal financial aid if he or she is a U.S. permanent resident who has an I-151, I-551, or I-551C (Permanent Resident Card).
No, you can apply for financial aid any time after January 1. To actually receive funds, however, you must be admitted and enrolled at the university.
The status of "emancipated minor" is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for financial aid purposes.
To be considered an independent student at least one of the following must apply:
- You are 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year;
- You are married on the day you apply (even if you are separated but not divorced);
- You are or will be enrolled in a master's or doctoral program (beyond a bachelor 's degree) during the school year;
- You have children who receive more than half their support from you;
- You have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half their support from you and will continue to receive more than half their support from you through June 30, 2010;
- You are an orphan or ward of the court (or were a ward of the court until age 18)or both your parents are deceased;
- You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training; or
- You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces ("veteran" includes students who attended a U.S. service academy and were released under a condition other than dishonorable).
Contact the financial aid office of a local college or university.
You can also call the Federal Student Aid Information Center, run by the U.S. Department of Education, at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). Assistance in Spanish is available.
- The fastest way is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online—FASFA on the Web—and provide the required signatures. The website is www.fafsa.gov.
- The student and a parent are required to provide a signature at the end of the application. Be sure to secure a PIN for both the student and a parent before you fill out the FAFSA.
- It will take three to seven days to process your FAFSA and send you a Student Aid Report (SAR).
- Your SAR will summarize the data you report on your FAFSA. Check the SAR carefully to make sure it is accurate. (Keep a copy of your SAR.)
- If you submitted complete FAFSA information, an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be printed in the upper right corner of your SAR. Your EFC is based on the financial information you provide on the FAFSA.
- Your school will use your EFC to award your financial aid.
- Visit www.fafsa.gov to apply online.
- Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center, run by the U.S. Department of Education, at 1-800-4-FED-AID.
No, the FAFSA is free. Never pay an individual or an organization to help you fill out the FAFSA. You can get free help online or by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center (run by the U.S. Department of Education) at 1-800-4FED-AID. If filling out the FAFSA online, be sure to go to www.fafsa.gov.
Complete the FAFSA so you can submit it as soon as possible after January 1. The FAFSA should be completed and submitted every year that you are in college.
- Go to www.pin.ed.gov and select Apply for a PIN.
- Provide your Social Security number, full name, complete address, date of birth, email address (if you have one), and a security pass phrase.
- Once you have completed the PIN application, select the "Submit Request" button.
- If the information you entered passes an identity check with the Social Security Administration, a PIN will be mailed or emailed to you.
- Be sure to have one of your parents secure a PIN also.
- Go to www.pin.ed.gov and select Request a Duplicate PIN.
- Provide your Social Security number, the first two letters of your last name, and your date of birth.
- If you provide an email address, a link to your PIN will be emailed to you.
- If you do not provide an email address, your PIN will be mailed to you in about 7Ė10 days.
You can use your PIN to access your financial aid data at these U.S. Department of Education websites:
- FAFSA on the Web: Access and complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Renewal FAFSA (if you applied for federal student aid last year) at www.fafsa.gov. You can also:
- submit corrections to your processed FAFSA,
- use your PIN to electronically sign your submitted FAFSA,
- get a copy of your processed FAFSA information, or
- add a school code to your FAFSA application
- The National Student Loan Data System website: www.nslds.ed.gov/nslds_SA/. View a history of the federal student financial aid you have received.
EFC is the amount students and their families are expected to pay toward school expenses. The EFC is determined by a federal formula. If your family canít cover the full amount calculated as the EFC, be sure to look into scholarships, grants, work-study, or other financial aid options. As always, search for free money first
The SAR is the report confirming financial aid information submitted on your FAFSA. You can use the SAR to make any needed changes to information provided in the FAFSA. The information on the SAR is what is sent to the financial aid offices at colleges and universities.
- Answer "Will Not File" to question 33 (Have you completed a tax return?).
- You will be taken to question 39 (Income earned from work).
- Enter any monies earned from a job that is listed as taxed on a W-2 form.
- Then answer only those income questions that apply to you from that point on.
I'll file a tax return this year, but I probably won't do it until April. How should I answer the financial questions? Should I wait to fill out this form until after I've filed my tax return?
If you haven't submitted your tax return, you should calculate your adjusted gross income (AGI) and taxes paid using the instructions for IRS Form 1040. After you complete your tax return, you may need to make corrections later if your income or tax information isn't accurate. You will also need to return any federal student aid you received based upon incorrect information.
You should provide information from the parent you lived with more during the last 12 months. If equal, list the one who provided more financial support. If you have a stepparent, he or she will have to include information also.
I live with my mother who is remarried but she and my stepfather are keeping their finances separate. For the parent income portion of the FAFSA, do I enter just my momís finances or both?
You need to include both your motherís and your stepfatherís income on the FAFSA. Regardless of any agreement to keep their finances separate, including any prenuptial agreement, both incomes factor into determining your parentsí available income.
I am entering financial information for my mother and stepfather on the FAFSA. Should I give my father's Social Security number (SSN) and last name or my stepfather's?
You should provide the SSN and last name of the same person or people for whom you are reporting financial information. In this case, provide the SSNs and names of your mother and stepfather.
I live with an aunt (or grandparent or other relative). Should that relative's income be reported instead of parental information?
You can report your relativeís income only if the relative is your adoptive parent. Dependent students can be considered dependent only on their parents and must report only parental information on the FAFSA. You must report (in Worksheet B) any cash support given by relatives, but not in-kind support (such as food and housing) from relatives.
- Cash support is support given either in the form of money or money that is paid on your (the student's) behalf. You must report cash support as untaxed income.
- If a friend or relative gives you grocery money, it must be reported as untaxed income on Worksheet B. If the friend or relative pays your electric bill or part of your rent, you must also report those payments.
- Examples of in-kind support are free food or housing that a family receives, usually in exchange for work or services. You usually don't report such support.
- The application requires you; however, to report the value of housing a family receives as compensation for a job. The most common examples are free housing or a housing allowance provided to military personnel or clergy, which is required to be reported.
Whose financial information do I include on the FAFSA if my parents are not legal U.S. residents/citizens but I am?
If you are a U.S. citizen, but your parents are not, you are eligible for federal financial aid. On the FAFSA you should enter 000-00-0000 in the parent Social Security number section. Including a fake, stolen, or SSN/TIN that is for work purposes only may cause your application to be rejected.
I'm not sure if I want to take out a student loan or work during the school year. What should I enter for the questions asking if I am interested in student loans or Work-Study?
Some schools use this information to put together a financial aid package for you. Answering "Yes" to either question does not obligate you to take out a loan or accept a Work-Study position. It usually just means that the school will offer you a loan(s) or Work-Study as part of your aid package. If you indicate on the application that you are interested in either a loan or Work-Study, you can change your mind and not accept the loan(s) or Work-Study later.
Keep in mind that if you answer "No" to the Work-Study question when you apply and subsequently change your mind, a Work-Study job may not be available if all of the Work-Study funds at your school have been used up.
No, FAFSA does not take into account money in pension funds, retirement, or home equity.
- Anyone in the immediate family who receives more than 50% support from a dependent student's parents or an independent student and spouse may be counted in the household size even if that person does not live in the house. For example, a sibling who is over 24 but still receives the majority of his/her support from the parents can be included.
- Siblings who are dependent (as defined by the FAFSA) as of the date you apply for aid are also included, regardless of whether they receive more than 50% of their support from the parents.
- Any other person who lives in the household and receives more than 50% support from the parents may also be counted, as long as he or she will continue to live with your parents and the support is expected to continue through the award year.
- An unborn child who will be born before or during the award year may also be counted in the household size.
There are some special (or extenuating) circumstances in my family (my grandmother lives with us and my mom just got her work hours reduced). Is there any way to appeal my financial aid award package?
Contact your college/university's financial aid office. All schools have some type of appeal process. You may have to provide a letter with back-up backup documentation such as an itemized list of support for your grandmother and a copy of your mom's pay stubs.
My financial situation has changed drastically from last year so the information submitted on the FAFSA does not reflect my current situation. What do I do now?
Explain your situation to your financial aid office to discuss possible options. Also keep looking for scholarships that may still have open application windows.
Can I apply for financial aid to go to a new school even if I quit paying my loan for my old school?
If you have student loan in default, you are not eligible to receive additional federal student aid unless you have made satisfactory arrangements to repay the defaulted loan.
I am a U.S. citizen. How do I apply for financial aid to attend school outside of the United States?
There are both federal aid options and scholarships available for study abroad programs. Talk to your financial aid office and the office managing your study abroad program. Both offices should have information for students studying abroad. Also search http://www.thesalliemaefund.org/smfnew/sections/search.html for private scholarships on the Internet.
It depends. You can continue to complete the FAFSA, but there are some restrictions on how many years and how much federal student assistance a student can receive. Colleges may also limit the number of years and amount depending on academic status, etc. You may be able to apply for certain scholarships each year. Talk to your college financial aid office to find out what you are eligible for.
The Sallie Mae Fund provides access to free scholarships search databases. Begin your search now http://www.thesalliemaefund.org/smfnew/sections/search.html.
All Sallie Mae Fund scholarship information is available at http://www.thesalliemaefund.org/smfnew/sections/apply.html. Be sure to check each programís criteria and deadlines carefully.
Read the scholarship application materials carefully. They should tell you when and how you will be notified. Sallie Mae Fund scholarships are administered by outside organizations. Contact information should be on the application if you have additional questions.
The best time to begin looking for financial aid is at least one year before you actually need it, and then every year thereafter while you are still a student.
My son/daughter is going to be a junior in high school this fall, is it to early to start looking for grants and scholarships?
No, it is not too early to begin a scholarship search. Just realize deadlines and criteria can change from year to year so when it is time to apply make sure you have the most up to date application.
Yes. If you are receiving any kind of financial aid from a private source, you must report the scholarship to the financial aid office.
I want to apply for a scholarship but there is maximum family income criteria. My family makes above that but they are not helping me pay for college at all. Can I still apply based on my income?
Contact the scholarship administrator directly to find out how they determine family income. Many scholarships collect income data by using the Student Aid Report, which typically includes family income.
There are many scholarship search databases online that include scholarships for graduate students. Search The Sallie Mae Fundís free database of scholarships worth over $16 billion, to find scholarships for high school, college, graduate, and adult students.
I am a non-traditional student (parent or older adult). Are there still scholarships for which I am eligible?
There are many scholarship search databases online that include scholarships for adult students. Search The Sallie Mae Fundís free database of scholarships worth over $16 billion, to find scholarships for high school, college, graduate, and adult students.
There are many scholarship search databases online. Search The Sallie Mae Fundís free database of scholarships worth over $16 billion, to find scholarships for high school, college, graduate, and adult students. Try also searching on the Web with key words as "study abroad" or "international scholarships."
I am not a United States citizen but will be attending college in the United States. Where can I find scholarships that fit my situation?
There are many scholarship search databases online that include scholarships for non-citizens. Search The Sallie Mae Fundís free database of scholarships worth over $16 billion, to find scholarships for high school, college, graduate, and adult students. The Latino College Dollars scholarship directory also allows students to search by citizenship criteria.
I did not graduate from high school and instead got my GED. How do I apply for scholarships that have a minimum GPA requirement?
Some scholarships accept GED scores in place of high school transcripts. Also, if you have a GPA from college classes you may have taken, those could be used. Be sure to ask the scholarship administrator what they require to meet eligibility criteria.
The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students. Grant amounts are dependent on your expected family contribution (EFC), the cost of attendance, your enrollment status (full-time or part-time), and whether you attend for a full academic year or less. You need to complete the FAFSA to apply for a Pell Grant.
The Pell Grant is a federal funded grant and the Cal Grant is a California-funded grant. Neither of these grants has to be paid back.
A Federal Perkins Loan is a low-interest (5%) loan for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. Your school is your lender. The loan is made with government funds, and your school contributes a share. You must repay this loan to your school.
Direct and FFELP Stafford loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized. You can receive a subsidized loan and an unsubsidized loan for the same enrollment period.
A subsidized loan is awarded on the basis of financial need. You won't be charged any interest before you begin repayment or during authorized periods of deferment. The federal government "subsidizes" the interest during these periods.
An unsubsidized loan is not awarded on the basis of need. You'll be charged interest from the time the loan is disbursed until it's paid in full. If you donít pay the interest that accrues (accumulates) while you're in school or during other periods of nonpayment, it will be capitalizedóthat is, the interest will be added to the principal amount of your loan, and additional interest will then begin to accrue on that higher amount.
No. Eligibility for Stafford loans is not dependent on your credit history.
Federal PLUS Loans allow parents to borrow for each dependent undergraduate student who is enrolled in college at least half time. Graduate or professional students are also eligible to borrow PLUS loans. The loan limit is the full cost of the studentís education each academic year, less grants and other financial aid the student receives. Any PLUS Loan applicant determined to have an adverse credit history is required to have an endorser who is obligated to pay the loan if the borrower does not. PLUS borrowers of loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008, have the option to start making payments within 60 days after full disbursement of funds or wait until 6 months after the studentís enrollment at least half time ends.
Generally loan proceeds are applied to your account the first day of classes each semester if your level of enrollment and eligibility for funds have been verified. If your file is not completed by the beginning of the semester, your proceeds will be delayed. Also, most schools are required to delay delivering first disbursements to first-year, first-time Stafford loan borrowers until 30 days after the first day of classes. For more detailed information, ask the financial aid office at your college or contact your lender directly.
Generally, there is a six-month grace period from the time you stop attending school and until your Stafford loan enters repayment and payments become due. Your financial aid office should be able to help because most colleges do regular enrollment reporting that provides loan holders with information on your status. Also, contacting your lender will make sure you understand when payments will be due and let you tell them that you are still attending school.
Yes, you can usually borrow more than the exact amount of your tuition. Leftover funds can be used to cover additional expenses. Talk to your financial aid office for details and only borrow what you absolutely need.
There are options for borrowers who need payment relief. The most important first step is to contact your lender as soon as possible. You can work with your lender to adjust your monthly payments or, if needed, request deferment or apply for forbearance. Do your research and discuss the options with your lender to be sure you understand each option and its consequences.
Cosigners can be used to help secure a private loan, but are not always necessary. If you do not have a long credit history or do not have good credit, having a cosigner may help you get approved for a private loan or get a better interest rate. If you do decide that you need a cosigner, make sure that person(s) understands and accepts his/her responsibility as one. Cosigners are as responsible for paying the loan as the borrower is. Talk to your financial aid office and lender for more information.
Each state has different scholarship, grant, and loan programs so research state aid based on your state and talk to your financial aid office. The FAFSA will need to be completed and submitted but there may be a state-specific deadline, so be sure to research that too.
I have maxed out my Stafford loans (subsidized and unsubsidized). I still owe money for school. What do I do?
If you are enrolled in college and have maxed out your Stafford loan options, make sure you have considered all possible scholarships since scholarships do not have to be paid back. Search for scholarships http://www.thesalliemaefund.org/smfnew/sections/search.html. Also, discuss with the financial aid office to see if Work-Study is available. If you still need more financial aid, consider with the Parent PLUS loan or a private loan. But, remember only borrow what you absolutely need.
I am in college but I donít have any money to pay for my books. My parents canít help me at all. Are there options for emergency aid?
Contact your financial aid office immediately and let it know your situation. The financial aid office can work with you to find out if any Work-Study opportunities are still available and if you qualify for any emergency scholarships or loans. If an emergency loan is offered, be sure it is the best option and only borrow what you absolutely need.