FAFSA Questions

How  could I get help with filling out my fafsa?

You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) with questions about the FAFSA on the Web or paper application process. Online help for completing the FAFSA is available at www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov/completefafsa. Help text is available for every question on the FAFSA if you apply online using FAFSA on the web at www.fafsa.gov. You can also get free live help online at this web site. 

What should I (the student) do if my family has special circumstances that aren't mentioned in the application?

Talk to your financial aid administrator in your schools' financial aid office. If your family's circumstances have changed from the base year due to loss of employment, loss of benefits, death or divorce, your school may decide to adjust data elements used to calculate your EFC. The adjustment might increase your eligibility for student aid.

If I live with an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, should that relative's income be reported instead of parental information?

Only if the relative is your adoptive parent. Dependent students can be considered dependent only on their parent(s) and must report only parental information on the FAFSA. You must report any cash support given by relatives, but not in-kind support (such as food and housing) from relatives.

What if I live with a girlfriend or boyfriend who pays the rent?

You should not report any information for a friend or roommate unless the two of you are actually married or are considered to have a common-law marriage under state law. You must report any cash support given by the friend as untaxed income but should not report in-kind support (such as food). You would have to report as untaxed income the rent the roommate paid on your behalf.

When is student aid considered income?

Generally, grants and scholarships that do not exceed tuition, fees, books, and required supplies are not considered income.  Student aid is considered income when it's taxable student grant and scholarship aid such as fellowships and assistantships which are reported to the IRS in your parents or your adjusted gross income.

If I am in the National Guard or am an active duty military member, am I considered a veteran for purposes of filling out the FAFSA?

You are considered a veteran for the purpose of filling out the FAFSA if you have engaged in active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard) or are a National Guard or Reserve enlistee who was called to active duty for other than state or training purposes, or were a cadet or midshipman at one of the service academies and were released under a condition other than dishonorable. 

If you are not on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard, but will be a veteran by June 30, 2010, you are considered a veteran for FAFSA purposes. 

What if I'm a dependent student but my parents are divorced or separated?

You report the parent with whom you lived the most during the 12 months preceding the date you completed the FAFSA. It does not make a difference which parent claims you as a dependent for tax purposes. If you did not live with either parent or lived equally with each parent, the parental information must be provided for the parent from whom you received the most financial support during the preceding 12 months or the parent from whom you received the most support the last time support was given.

If the parent you receive financial support from was a single parent who is now married, or the parent was divorced or widowed but has remarried, your stepparents financial information is required on the FAFSA. This does not mean your stepparent is obligated to give financial assistance to you, but his or her income and assets represent significant information about the family's resources.

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.

What should you do if the parent with whom you live is remarried and the stepparent refuses to supply information?

If you are a dependent student and your parent is remarried, the stepparent's information must be included or you will not be considered for federal student financial aid. If you believe that your situation is unique or unusual other than the stepparent's simple refusal to provide the requested information, you should discuss the matter further with your financial aid administrator.

How does a family decide who should be counted in the household size?

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. 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 resides in the household and receives more than 50% support from the parents may also be counted, as long as they will continue to reside with your parents and the support is expected to continue through June 30, 2013. An unborn child who will be born during the award year may also be counted in the household size.

Household size and tax exemptions are not necessarily the same. Exemptions look at the previous year or tax year and household size refers to the school year for which the student is applying for aid.

My parents separated four months ago. I live with my mother. My parents filed a joint tax return and claimed me as an exemption. Do I report both their incomes, or just my mother's?

Report only your mother's income and asset information because you lived with her the most during the past 12 months. Use a W-2 Form or other record(s) to determine her share of the income reported and taxes paid on the tax return.

If I (the student) am separated but filed a joint tax return, how is the information reported?

You should give only your portion of the exemptions, income, and taxes paid.

Who qualifies to be counted in the number in college?

Any person (other than your parents) who is counted in the household and will be attending any term of the academic year at least half time. The person must be working toward a degree or certificate leading to a recognized education credential at a postsecondary school eligible to participate in the federal student aid programs. You (the student) need not be enrolled half time to be counted in the number in college.

When Does My School Have to Receive the Results From My Application?

Your school must have your information by your last day of enrollment. If your school has not received your application information electronically, you must submit your paper SAR to the school by the deadline. Either the electronic record (ISIR) or the paper SAR that has been processed by the Department must have an official EFC. Once the school receives your information, it will use your EFC to determine the amount of your federal grant, loan, or work-study award, if you are eligible. The FAA will send you a letter explaining the aid the school is offering.

What if I don't get a SAR Acknowledgement or SAR, or I need another copy of that form?

If you do not receive your SAR Acknowledgement within two weeks or SAR within four weeks after submitting your application, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). You can use the automated system to find out whether your application has been processed or to request duplicate copies of your report. You will need to provide your Social Security Number and the first two letters of your last name. You can also check the status of your FAFSA and print a copy of your SAR at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

If you apply on FAFSA on the Web, you will get a confirmation notice after you click on Submit My FAFSA. 

I sent in my FAFSA over a week ago but haven't got an email. What should I do?

Your FAFSA will be processed in two to four days. If you do get an email within a week you can check the status by going to www.fafsa.ed.gov. You can also check by contacting the Federal student aid Information center at 1-800-4-FED-AID.

Why should I bother to complete the pre-application worksheet rather than just fill in the FAFSA and use that when I apply online?

This worksheet is set up to follow the order of questions that are on the online version of the FAFSA. The paper FAFSA has the questions in a different order so it is more difficult to transfer your answers to the online FAFSA.

How soon after January 1 should the FAFSA form be sent in? Is it better to wait until the income tax forms have been completed?

Send in the form as soon as possible after January 1. You do not have to wait until your taxes are done. Although it is better to do your taxes early and file your FAFSA after that, it is ok 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. If you wait too long, you may miss out on scholarships or campus based aid such as Work-study.  

What information do I need to complete a FAFSA accurately?

  • Social Security numbers of student and parents' (parents Social Security numbers are needed for dependent students)
  • W-2 forms and other records of money earned by student and parents, if you are a dependent student
  • Students and parents' federal income tax returns (parents tax return is needed for dependent students and spouses tax return is needed for independent students)
  • Untaxed income records - Social security, welfare, or veteran benefits for example
  • Current bank statements
  • Current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond and other investment records
  • Alien registration card, if you're not a U.S. citizen

How do Returning or Continuing Students Re-apply?

You must re-apply for financial aid every academic year. When filling out a FAFSA again the application will be partially completed for you using information that has been carried over from last year's application..

How do the schools I'm interested in, get my FAFSA results?

You can list up to ten schools on your FAFSA. Those schools will receive you FAFSA results electronically.

What do I do with my SAR?

Review it carefully to make sure it's correct and complete. If it is and if it contains your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) contact the school(s) you're interested in. The schools listed on your FAFSA will appear on your SAR, they'll receive your SAR information electronically.

What if I later want to add or change schools?

You can make changes online with your PIN or you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1(800)433-3243.

How do I make changes or corrections to my Student Aid Report (SAR)?

If you need to make corrections to the SAR, you can make them online at www.fafsa.gov.  You can made a few changes to your SAR information by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

Once my SAR is correct and complete, how do I find out if I'm eligible and what aid I'll receive?

Contact the financial aid office of the school(s) you're interested in or plan to attend. If you're eligible for aid, each school will send you an award letter, telling you the types of aid it will offer and how much you can receive.

My SAR indicates that my application has been selected for "Verification". What is that?

The federal government uses a process called verification to help determine the correctness of the financial information on your FAFSA. If your application needs to be verified, there will be an asterisk (*) to the right of the EFC and written comments on the SAR indicating what actions you need to take to complete the verification process. Your electronic record will also indicate that verification must be completed before any federal student aid payments are made.

If your application is selected for verification, or if there are any other questions about your application, the financial aid office will send you a letter asking you to provide documentation of your SAR information and complete a Verification Worksheet. You will have to submit Tax Transcript(s) and other requested items before you receive any payments of federal student aid.

What is a PIN and what is it used for?

It's an electronic access code number that serves as your identifier. Your PIN helps you to:

  • Apply online for federal student aid, using FAFSA on the Web.
  • "Sign" your application electronically and complete the student aid process online. If you're a dependent student and your parents have a PIN, they can sign the application electronically, as well. Signing the application at the time you apply means you'll get your results faster.
  • Make corrections to your FAFSA.
  • Access your Student Aid Report and make corrections to it.
  • Access all your federal student aid records online, including federal loan information.

How and when do I get a PIN?

Go to www.pin.ed.gov at any time, don't wait until you apply for federal student aid. You can request your PIN before you complete your FAFSA on the Web application. If you're a dependent student your parents should request a PIN also, so you and your parent can electronically sign your FAFSA on the Web before it's submitted.

My parents don't support me and won't contribute to my education, so why am I still considered a "dependent" student?

It's a federal regulation. There are basic requirements a student must meet to be considered an independent student. If you do not meet these requirements but you still believe you are truly independent of your parents, you may appeal for a "dependency override" in the financial aid office at your school. In unusual cases, the financial aid administrator can change your dependency based on adequate documentation of special circumstances you may have.