Frequently Asked Questions

I probably don't qualify for aid. Should I apply for aid anyway?
Yes. Many families mistakenly think they don't qualify for aid and prevent themselves from receiving financial aid by failing to apply for it. In addition, there area few sources of aid such as unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans that are available regardless of need. Many schools require the FAFSA before awarding institutional aid. The FAFSA form is free. There is no good excuse for not applying.

How do I apply for a Pell Grant and other types of need-based aid?
Submit a FAFSA. To indicate interest in student employment, student loans and parent loans, you should check the appropriate boxes on the FAFSA form. Checking these boxes does not commit you to accepting these types of aid. You will have the opportunity to accept or decline each part of your aid package later. Leaving these boxes unchecked will not increase the amount of grants you receive.

When is the deadline for the FAFSA?
To meet the deadlines, you should submit the form as soon as possibly after January 1 of your student's senior year and no later than March 1. If there are no errors on your FAFSA submission, it will typically be processed in about four weeks. You can check the status of a submitted FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov. IF you apply for the FAFSA online, you could receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) in a matter of days.

Can I start to fill out the FAFSA online before receiving my income tax returns?
Yes, you can, and you should. Send in the form as soon as possible after January 1. Do not wait until your taxes are done. Although it is better to do your taxes early, it is okay to use estimates of your income, so long as they aren't very far off from the actual values. You will have an opportunity to correct any errors later. Please note that, in order to meet deadlines, tax returns may be prepared but not mailed until April 15. In this way, actual tax return information may then be used for completion of the FAFSA form.

How does a student get the federal ID number needed to electronically sign the FAFSA?
The federal ID number, or PIN as it is called, can be applied for at www.pin.ed.gov. Once you have completed the brief application form, the PIN is mailed to you within three business days.

If a student's parents are divorced, do both parents fill out the FAFSA?
No. The parent who is designated as the custodial parent is the one responsible for filling out the FAFSA. Typically, the custodial parent is the one who has lived with the child the most over the last 12 months. As a reminder, income information is required on the FAFSA for any custodial step-parent.

What are the criteria for being declared an independent?
You can be considered independent for the 2009-2010 FAFSA year if you:
  • Were born before January 1, 1986
  • Are married
  • Are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces or you are currently serving on active duty
  • Have children or others who receive more than half of their support from you
  • Are an orphan or ward of the court (as of age 13)
  • Have a legal, state-appointed guardian
  • Are an emancipated minor
  • Are an unaccompanied youth determined to be homeless or at risk of being homeless
If a student lives with a grandparent, but the grandparents do not have legal custody of him or her, can the grandparent(s) apply for financial aid on behalf of the child without the parent's income coming into play?
No. The parent or person who has legal custody of the student will be the person who is expected to contribute to the cost of the student's college education.