Be wary of services that charge a fee for helping families obtain financial aid and scholarships because many times they are scams. Families should start researching and applying for scholarships the spring semester of a student’s junior year in high school. Most major scholarship deadlines are the fall semester of the student’s senior year.
Financial aid comes in the form of grants, work-study and loans. These programs come from three main sources: Federal, State and Institutional.
To be eligible for any of these programs, the student must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid otherwise known as FAFSA.
Completing the FAFSA will help colleges automatically determine your eligibility for Federal grants, work-study, and loans. Colleges may also use this application to determine your eligibility for state and/or institutional based aid programs or they may request that you submit additional applications.
University Applications / CSS Profiles
Some colleges may require additional forms to apply for financial aid. These may include specific applications from the college or university or the CSS Profile, which is a tool administered by the College Board to help financial aid offices acquire a more complete account of your financial situation.
Check with your school to see if any additional applications are required to receive financial aid and if they have a priority deadline!
Click here to see a complete list of eligibility requirements.
The FSA ID ― a username and password ― must be used to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites. Your FSA ID confirms your identity when you access your financial aid information. Go online to www.fafsa.gov and click the FSA ID logo to create your FSA ID.
Your FSA ID can be used to electronically sign Federal Student Aid documents, access your personal records, and make binding legal obligations. If you are a parent and need to electronically sign your child’s FAFSA, you need your own FSA ID. If you have more than one child attending college, you can use the same FSA ID to sign their applications.
Click here to learn more about the FSA ID.
Click here to see a full list of required documentation to complete the FAFSA.
When selecting the colleges you wish to send your FAFSA results to, you can either use the search option or enter the School’s ID.
You can add up to 10 schools on the online application to have your FAFSA results sent to. For each of the schools you add, you’ll also need to indicate whether you will be living on campus, off campus or with your parent(s) – housing status is important because schools may use this information when determining your cost of attendance.
The FAFSA application will include a list of questions to determine the student’s dependency status.
If you answer Yes to any of the dependency questions, you are considered an Independent student and can skip the Parent Demographic and Parent Financial sections of the FAFSA.
If you answer No to all of the dependency questions, you are considered Dependent and must supply your parent(s) information on the application.
Are You Dependent or Independent per FAFSA? (click here for a complete list of dependency questions)
If you are considered dependent, but can’t provide parental information you may need to contact your school to determine if they allow for special circumstances in which you are not required to submit parental information. These may include:
You must contact your school to see what they allow for regarding special circumstances – each school determines their own special circumstance criteria. Special circumstances are not an option if the parent(s) are just unwilling to provide their information, refuse to contribute to your education or because they do not claim you on their income taxes.
If you are considered a dependent student, per FAFSA, your parent(s) will need to supply their demographic and financial information. The demographic information requested from the parent(s) will include:
If your parents are married or unmarried and live together, you will need to provide information for both parents.
If you parents are divorced or separated AND living separately, you will use parental information for the parent you lived with most for the last 12 months. If you lived the same amount of time with each divorced or separated parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent 12 months that you actually received support from a parent.
If the parent you will be reporting on the FAFSA is now remarried, you must also report your step-parent’s information on the FAFSA.
Click here for more information about selecting the appropriate parent when completing the FAFSA.
When completing the 2017-18 FAFSA, you must submit your 2015 IRS Tax Return information. You will be asked if you have already completed your taxes, will file or are not going to file.
If you have filed your income tax return, be sure to utilize the IRS Data Retrieval tool. This tool is used to automatically pull in certain information from your tax return into your FAFSA and significantly simplifies the process and minimizes the verification documentation your school may ask for.
You will be asked a series of questions to determine if you are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool. If you are eligible to use this tool, you will be asked to enter your FSA ID and click the IRS link. You will then be asked to enter information on the IRS site to verify your identification. Once verified, your tax information will be displayed; next all you have to do is select the Transfer My Information button and then click Transfer Now. You will then be taken back to your FAFSA application and be able to see which fields were populated from the retrieval.
Notes about using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool:
If you do not use the IRS Data Retrieval tool, you will need to follow the prompts given and enter the specific line item total from your tax return for each question on the FAFSA.
Additional information may be requested that is not found on your tax return including child support received, veterans non-education benefits, other untaxed income not reported such as workers’ compensation or disability.
If you aren’t sure about how to answer a question, be sure to check out the Helpful Hints section that will appear on the right side of the screen.
Before submitting your FAFSA, you must sign the document and agree to the terms and conditions. You have the option to print, sign and mail your FAFSA or you can sign it electronically with your FSA ID. We recommend signing it electronically because your application will be processed faster this way.
If you’re a dependent student, per FAFSA, your parent will also need to sign the application with their FSA ID. If you didn’t sign-up for an FSA ID before starting the application, you can apply for one on this page.
After submitting your FAFSA, you will get a submission confirmation page, which you may want to print for your records.
You will also receive a Student Aid Report, or SAR, by email in about a week if you entered an email address. This report is a summary of your FAFSA information and is used to notify you of any issues that require special attention. Be sure to review your SAR to make sure all of the information is correct or if any corrections need to be made.
Once you submit your FAFSA you will receive a Student Aid Report or SAR. This report will have all of the information you submitted on the application and will also be sent to each college you listed on the FAFSA. The SAR will include an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which each college will use to determine your financial aid package.
Your college may request additional information once they receive your SAR. This process is called Verification – be sure to get any information back to your college as soon as possible so it doesn’t affect your award! Once your application is reviewed and completed by your college you will receive an award letter.
Once your aid package has been determined, the school will either mail an Award Letter to you or have you go online to review your award, which will indicate the types and amounts of financial aid you may be eligible to receive.
If you have applied for financial aid at more than one school, carefully review and compare each award and the schools Cost of Attendance to determine which aid package may be the best for you. Once you decide which school to attend you will need to accept or reject all or a part of the aid package offered. Be sure to read the award instructions carefully to see if any additional steps need to be taken. If you have questions about your award contact your Financial Aid office.
Schools will use their Cost of Attendance (COA) and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to determine your financial aid package. COA is usually made up of certain costs such as tuition and fees, books, room and board, misc. and is also based on your enrollment status, classification, and housing at each school. The school will use the following equation:
COA – EFC = need-based aid
Need-based aid includes programs such as grants, work-study and certain subsidized student loans (the student isn’t responsible for the interest on the loan while enrolled and for a 6-month grace period after they graduate or cease at least half-time enrollment).
The school will then use the following formula to determine the remaining aid eligibility:
COA – need-based aid = non need-based aid
Non need-based aid includes programs such as student and parent loans.
If you’re an undocumented student, you will not meet the eligibility requirements for FAFSA; however, you may still be eligible to apply for state-based financial aid.
Undocumented students who qualify for Texas state residency may be eligible to apply for state financial aid through the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA). To apply, you must first find out if the school that you are/will be attending accepts the TASFA. Some schools require additional details and applications to be submitted in order to be eligible for state aid.
Contact the Financial Aid office at the college you plan to attend for more information and/or requirements to apply. Visit www.collegeforalltexans.com for additional information about the TASFA application.