Starting in the 2016/2017 school year students can start submitting the FAFSA on October 1st(rather than on January 1 as in the past). The IRS data retrieval tool will also be operational then, so as long as you e-file your tax returns, it will transfer your tax information over to the FAFSA (definitely a time-saver). Here’s the link for more details:
We will be updating our website with all this new info in the upcoming weeks. Please note this change if you see it listed wrong elsewhere on the website!
NEW DEADLINES for FAFSA forms
The FAFSA application is the most important deadline you face in the college process! ALWAYS CHECK YOUR COLLEGE'S DEADLINES - if you are late - you may miss some very important financial assistance!
With the new filing schedule, the FAFSA can now be filed starting on October 1 (instead of January 1). The FAFSA will now collect income information from the past tax year. (For example - for the 2017/18 school year, you would file the FAFSA starting on October 1, 2016, using the 2015 tax information.) The official end date for the FAFSA application is still June 30. HOWEVER, most colleges have their own end dates MUCH earlier - you need to follow that end date, not the official FAFSA end date, to qualify for various forms of college assistance. And, as in the past, much of the college assistance is a pool of money that gets used up as applications come in, so it's always better to apply as early as possible while there are still funds available!!! Students can still apply for FAFSA and/or state grants if they miss the school-imposed deadline. HOWEVER, certain forms of aid (such as work-study programs) may no longer be available. And with state budgets being slashed with the tough economy - financial aid is often one of the items that can be cut. One other reminder - the sooner you apply for finanical aid - the sooner your college will let you know what aid is available, so you'll be better able to determine if you want to accept the school's offer in time to meet their acceptance deadline!
Beginning on Oct. 1, 2016, your students will be able to fill out the FAFSA for the 2017–18 school year. (In the past, they had to wait until January 1). In addition, applicants will no longer need to estimate income and tax information and will be able to retrieve their data directly from the IRS, right from the first day the FAFSA is available. Students also will have information about their Expected Family Contributions earlier, helping them as they're going through the college application and selection process.
Why You Should Fill Out the FAFSA as soon as the October 1 deadline comes
You will have a better chance at more state and school aid. Schools and states have a limited amount of aid, and a bunch of states have a FAFSA deadline of “as soon as possible after October 1,” (meaning they actually could run out of financial aid) so it’s good to be at the front of the line!
Get it out of the way so you can focus on other things, like college applications, college coursework, or applying for scholarships.
It makes comparing colleges easier. If you submit your FAFSA early there’s a chance that colleges will give you an estimated financial aid offer early, giving you more time to compare colleges before the college decision deadline.
More scholarship eligibility. Some scholarships look at your FAFSA results—and some of those scholarships have early deadlines. Don’t disqualify yourself from those scholarships.
EXPLAINING WHAT FAFSA IS
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines eligibility for federal grants, state grants, many scholarship, student loans and work-study programs. This is a critical application for all those going to college. Income tax information will be required for this application. Go to www.pheaa.org/fafsa or www.fafsa.ed.gov to the applications. The FAFSA application can be done online.
BEFORE YOU FILL OUT THE FAFSA YOU NEED YOUR FSA ID (this old "pin")
If you already have a PIN, you can link your information to your new FSA ID (user name/password) by entering your PIN while registering for your FSA ID. (This will save you time when registering for your FSA ID.) If you’ve forgotten your PIN, don’t worry; you can either enter the answer to your PIN “challenge question” during the FSA ID registration process to link your PIN, or you can just create your FSA ID from scratch.
Wondering why the FSA ID replaced the Federal Student Aid PIN? The main reason they made the change was to increase security. Having a username and password is much more secure than a PIN that you enter in conjunction with personally identifiable information (your Social Security number, name, and date of birth). The fewer times you have to enter personally identifiable information over the Internet, the safer you are.
They were also able to improve usability. The PIN was launched in 1998, and while it served students and their families well for 17 years, a lot has changed in that time. The modernized experience available with the FSA ID includes features such as resetting forgotten passwords with e-mail, using an e-mail address instead of a username to log in, and compatibility with more browsers and devices.
In order to apply for an FSA ID – go to https://fafsa.ed.govThis site is the home page for FAFSA. Look at the top of the page for the FSA ID tab. Click on the FSA ID tab. It will take you to a page with a box in the center that says CREATE A FSA ID Now. Click on this button and complete information. You will need a Social Security number and birth date for each ID. Both you and one of your parents must have an ID to sign the application.
ONCE YOU FILL OUT THE FAFSA REMEMBER ....
1. Your FAFSA confirmation page is not your financial aid award.
After you complete the FAFSA online and click “SUBMIT,” you’ll see a confirmation page. This is not your award package. You’ll get that separately from the school(s) you apply to and get into. Your school(s) calculate your aid.
The confirmation page provides federal aid estimates based on the information you provided on your FAFSA. It’s important to know that these figures are truly estimates and assume the information you provided on the FAFSA is correct. To calculate the actual amount of aid you’re eligible for, your school will take into account other factors, such as the cost to attend the school. Additionally, these estimates only take into account federal aid and not outside scholarships or state and institutional financial assistance you may also be eligible for.
TIP: Each school you are accepted to and include on your FAFSA will send you a financial aid award. Until you receive this award letter/notification from a school, it may be difficult to know exactly how much aid you might be eligible to receive from that specific school. To get an idea of how much aid schools tend to give depending on your family’s income, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov
2. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is just one of many factors used to calculate your aid.
The information you report on your FAFSA is used to calculate your EFC. It’s very important to note that the EFC, in most cases, is not the exact amount of money your family will have to pay for college. Instead, the EFC is an index number used by financial aid offices to calculate how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school. The formula they use is:
Cost of attendance – Expected family contribution Your financial “need”
Each school will then do its best to meet your financial need. Some schools may meet 100% of your financial need, and other schools may only meet 10%–it just depends on the school and the financial aid they have available that year. You should complete the FAFSA annually because there are many factors that can change each year you plan to be in school.
NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, the EFC formula considers more than just income. Factors such as dependency status, family size, and the number of children in your family who are attending college are just a few of the additional factors considered.
3. You won’t receive an award letter from your school right away.
Even though the 2017-18 FAFSA is available in October this year, that doesn’t mean you’ll get an award letter earlier. Some schools may send you an award letter earlier, while other schools may stick to the timeline they have used in the past.
Remember that your school disburses your aid, not the FAFSA, and each school has a different schedule. Contact your school for details about when they send out award letters. If you want to see an estimate of your school’s average annual cost, use the College Scorecard. If you want to report significant changes in your family or financial situation, contact your school’s financial aid office.
TIP: After completing your FAFSA, it’s always a good idea to double-check with the financial aid offices at the schools you applied to. You should find out if they need additional paperwork or have other deadlines.
4. You can submit a FAFSA correction later, such as adding a school.
After your FAFSA has been submitted and processed (takes about 3 days), you can go back and submit a correction to certain fields. This includes correcting a mistake or adding another school to receive your FAFSA information. Login with your FSA ID, and then click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.
12 Common FAFSA Mistakes
Starting on October 1, 2016, you’ll be required to use earlier (2015) tax information than in previous years. How does that benefit you? Since you’ve already filed your 2015 taxes, you’ll be able to transfer your tax information into your FAFSA right away! (And you won’t need to update your FAFSA after you file 2016 taxes. These exciting changes are sure to save you time and make the FAFSA much easier to complete. Just make sure to take your time so you don’t make one of these mistakes:
1. Not Completing the FAFSA
I hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA is too hard,” “It takes too long to complete,” I never qualify anyway, so why does it matter?” It does matter. The FAFSA is not just the application for federal grants such as the Pell Grant. It’s also the application for work-study funds, low-interest federal student loans, and even scholarships and grants offered by your state, school, or private organization. If you don’t complete the FAFSA, you could lose out on thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. The FAFSA takes little time to complete, and there is help provided throughout the application. Oh, and contrary to popular belief, there is no income cut-off when it comes to federal student aid.
2. Not Using the Correct Website
The official FAFSA website is fafsa.gov. That’s .gov! You never have to pay to complete the FAFSA. If you’re asked for credit card information, you’re not on the official government site.
3. Not Getting an FSA ID Ahead of Time
An FSA ID is a username and password that you must use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites, including fafsa.gov. You AND your parent, if you’re considered a dependent student, will each need your own, separate FSA IDs if you each want to sign your FAFSA online.
Why is it so important to get an FSA ID early? Well, once you register for an FSA ID, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA. If you don’t want your FAFSA to be delayed, create an FSA ID now. If you’re a dependent student, have your parent create an FSA ID too. Just DO NOT share your FSA IDs with each other!
4. Waiting to Fill Out the FAFSA
If you want to get the most financial aid possible, fill out the FAFSA ASAP after October 1. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and some states and colleges run out of money early, so even if your deadlines aren’t for a while, get your FAFSA done ASAP. Now that you’re required to use earlier (2015) tax information to complete the FAFSA, you have no excuse to wait!
5. Not Filing by the Deadline
As I said, you should fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can, but you should DEFINITELY fill it out before your earliest FAFSA deadline. Each state and school sets its own deadline.Some priority deadlines will be earlier this year because the FAFSA is available earlier. To maximize the amount of your financial aid, fill out your FAFSA (and any other financial aid applications that may be required by your state or school) by your earliest deadline, if not sooner!
6. Not using your FSA ID to start the FAFSA
When you go to log in to fafsa.gov, you will be given the option to “Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID” OR “Enter the student’s information.” If you are the student, we highly recommend choosing the first option (highlighted below) if you can. If you log in with your FSA ID, a lot of your information (name, Social Security number, date of birth, etc.) will be automatically loaded into your application. This will prevent you from running into a common error that occurs when your verified FSA ID information doesn’t match the information on your FAFSA. Additionally, you won’t have to provide your FSA ID again to transfer your information from the IRS or to sign your FAFSA electronically.
7. Not Reading Definitions Carefully
When it comes to completing the FAFSA, you want to read each definition and question carefully, because sometimes, how the FAFSA wants you to answer certain questions is not how you’d intuitively answer the question.
Here are some items that have very specific (but not intuitive) definitions according to the FAFSA:
Legal Guardianship: One question on the FAFSA asks: “As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship?” Many students incorrectly answer “yes” here. For this question, the definition of legal guardianship does not include your parents, even if they were appointed by a court to be your guardian. You are also not considered a legal guardian of yourself.
Parent: The FAFSA has very specific guidelines for which parent(s) need to be reported on the FAFSA. (Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with who claims you on their taxes.)
Your Number of Family Members (Household size): The FAFSA has a specific definition of how your or your parents’ household size should be determined. Read the instructions carefully. Many students incorrectly report this number, especially when the student doesn’t physically live with the parent.
Number of Family Members in College: Enter the number of people in your (oryour parents’) household who will attend college at the same time you attend college. Don’t forget to include yourself. Do not include your parents in this number. This number should never be greater than your number of family members.
8. Inputting Incorrect Information
Here are some examples of common errors we see on the FAFSA:
Confusing Parent and Student Information: I know there are many parents out there who fill out the FAFSA for their child, but remember, the FAFSA is the student’s application. When the FAFSA says “you” or “your”, it’s referring to the student, so make sure to enter your (the student’s) information. If we are asking for your parent’s information, we will specify that in the question.
Entering the Wrong Name (Yes, I’m serious): You wouldn’t believe how many people have issues with their FAFSA because they entered an incorrect name on the application. It doesn’t matter if you’re Madonna, or Drake, or whatever Snoop Lion is calling himself these days. You must enter your full name as it appears on your Social Security card. No nicknames.
Entering the Wrong Social Security Number (SSN): When we process FAFSAs, we cross-check your Social Security number with the Social Security Administration. To avoid delays in processing your application, triple-check that you have entered the correct SSN. If you meet our basic eligibility criteria, but you or your parents don’t have an SSN, follow these instructions.
Even if you fully support yourself, pay your own bills, and file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, and therefore, you’ll need to provide parent information on your FAFSA. Dependency guidelines for the FAFSA are determined by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. Find out whether you need to provide parent information by answering these questions.
10. Listing only one college
Two-thirds of precollege FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Unless you are only applying to one college or already know where you’re going to school, this is a mistake! Colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added, so you should add ANY college you are considering to your FAFSA, even if you aren’t sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.
TIP: It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools you later decide not to apply to. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA. But you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools.
11. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool
For many, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA is entering the financial information. But now, thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer the necessary tax info into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. And this year, the tool will be available on the same day the FAFSA launches (you used to have to wait until February.)
Since earlier tax information is now require (2015 info instead of 2016 info), you’ll already have filed your 2015 taxes by the time you start the 2017–18 FAFSA. This means you can transfer your tax info right away and you won’t need to go back in and update your FAFSA with 2016 tax info. In fact, you can’t update the application with 2016 tax info; 2015 is what’s required.
12. Not Signing the FAFSA
So many students answer every single question that is asked, but fail to actually sign the FAFSA with their FSA ID and submit it. This happens for many reasons —maybe youforgot your FSA ID, or your parent isn’t with you to sign with the parent FSA ID —so the FAFSA is left incomplete. Don’t let this happen to you.
If you don’t know your FSA ID, select “Forgot username” and/or “Forgot password.”'
If you don’t have an FSA ID, create one. (Note: You may need to wait up to three days for your information to be verified before you can use your new FSA ID to sign the FAFSA, but it’s still faster than mailing a signature page.)
If you’re not able to sign with your FSA ID, you and/or your parent have the option to mail a signature page. If you would like confirmation that your FAFSA has been submitted, you can check your status immediately after you submit your FAFSA online.
What is the FAFSA?
The federal government's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) provides us with complete, consistent financial data analyzed within policy established by the government. The federal government does not award financial aid; individual schools do, based on the analysis of information provided by you on this form. Many institutions use your FAFSA to award non-federal aid, including state or institutional aid. Some frequently asked questions are below:
What is the deadline for the FAFSA application?
You can submit your FAFSA application starting October 1 each year. The official deadline for FAFSA is June 30 of the following year. HOWEVER each college sets its own deadline which is often MUCH earlier. If you miss this school deadline – you can miss the opportunity to get additional aid from your college.
Can I just wait until the deadline or should I apply even earlier?
There are many pools of money that a college has that are handed out as students submit their FAFSA applications. Some of these pools of money are small so not many students will receive them. The earliest applicants get the money. Don't wait until the deadline!!!
How can I complete the FAFSA if I haven't yet completed my taxes?
You will complete the FAFSA using information based on your previous year's tax return. This application then counts for the FAFSA deadline.
How do I find out my college's deadline for FAFSA?
Go to your college/university website. Under admissions/financial aid locate the college priority filing deadline for FASFA-Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In that same location – you should also determine whether your college/university uses the CSS Profile for purposes of awarding other scholarship funds. FILING BEFORE THE PRIORITY DEADLINE IS CRITICAL.
Does it cost any money to apply for FAFSA?
No, the FAFSA application is free.
Once I complete the FAFSA, do I need to redo it again, or is the same application used over and over each year I'm in school?
You must complete a FAFSA EVERY YEAR. Family situations change from year to year, so the new information will be used to determine the level of need. To renew the FAFSA - go to www.FAFSA.govand enter your FSA ID to access your original FAFSA. The answers from your original application are prefilled, you need only enter any information that has changed. Be sure you submit this and get a new confirmation that it was received. (The FSA ID is the same from year to year - so keep it!)
What will I need in order to file?
Your FSA ID (and your parent's ID)
Your federal tax return (include spouse if married)
Your parents' past federal tax return (if you are dependent)
Your parents' W-2s (if you are dependent)
FAFSA form if you are filing on paper
Pin number for electronic signature if you're filing electronically (both the student and parent need pins - and you need to get these in advance of completing the FAFSA).
Records of any other income received (welfare, social security, child support, VA Benefits, etc.)
Current balances of checking and saving accounts and other investments
Business/farm records (if applicable)
Alien Registration Card if not a US citizen
How do I apply for FAFSA?
First you have to set up your FSA ID for the student and the student’s parents. This information will enable you to file for federal financial aid on-line. A social security number is necessary. Go towww.pin.ed.gov.
Identify the institution’s ID code to be used in FASFA application.
To complete FASFA application, you will need most recent tax return for parents and student if applicable, and current bank balances-cash, checking and savings.
To complete the FASFA go to www.fafsa.ed.gov It is strongly recommended that you file on-line. Make sure you receive on-line confirmation that the application was submitted.
When asked in FASFA application if you want to apply for PHEAA- answer yes. From the FASFA confirmation page look for “optional feature”- start your state application to apply for PA state based financial aid.
How will I know that my FAFSA has been processed? You will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) generated from the information you provided on the FAFSA from the federal government. Within seven to ten days after you receive the SAR, FAFSA will receive the same information electronically. Keep the SAR for your records or a copy of the SAR if you must submit corections. Receiving your SAR does NOT mean that your FAFSA was accepted or that you are elgible for financial aid. The SAR is a number that is calculated totally based on numbers.
What should I look for in my SAR?
Check your SAR for your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - this will be in the top right corner of page 1. Check also for any errors in your SAR - if there are errors you need to get them corrected or your EFC will be wrong. If you were selected for verification - you will find an asterisk (*) after your EFC and instructions on what you need to do. (A number of applications are selected randomly each your for verification.) Be sure you keep copies of all documents used for your FAFSA so if you are selected for verification you will have these for reference.
If there were mistakes on my SAR, what do I do?
Correct these mistakes immediately. You just log into FAFSA.gov, enter your pin, and make the corrections. You will need to start over if your social security number is incorrect. If you have an extenuating circumstance (such as a death of a parent, a loss of a job, etc.), then contact your school immediately. They may be able to reevaluate your application.
How do the schools I listed on my FAFSA find out about my application?
The school(s) listed on your SAR will notify the student if any other information is required to complete the financial aid process. (Some WILL want additional information - so don't ignore this request!) Each school will determine your eligibility for financial aid and notify you in writing or electronically. The notification you receive is commonly known as an Award Letter or Notification of Financial Aid Eligibility. It can be very helpful to increase your state aid if you list in-state schools FIRST on your list of colleges. The state will see the list of schools to which you are applying. If you put in-state schools at the bottom of that list, the state may assume you would prefer schools out of the state and give you less aid. So always list in-state schools FIRST, no matter your preference! See this article which explains more.
What if I decide to apply to an additional school that was not listed on my original FAFSA?
You MUST get this school added - otherwise it will not know to offer you any aid. To do this - you just go to FAFSA.gov, use your pin and log into your account, and add the school code online. (You can get the school's 6-digit Federal School Code at FAFSA.gov as well!)
My parents aren't helping me pay for college. Can I be considered independent? Even if your parents don't contribute money toward your education, you are considered a dependent of your parents unless you:
Will be 24 years old before January 1 of the academic year, (for example, 24 years old before January 1, 1984, for the 2007-08 academic year;
Are an orphan or were a ward of the court until age 18;
Are a veteran;
Currently serve on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training;
Will be working on a master's or doctorate program or graduate certificate;
Are married; or
Have a legal dependent other than a spouse that you support more than 50%.
See the FAFSA application if you have a legal guardianship, if a court has declared you an emancipated minor, or if you have been considered an unaccompanied youth or homeless.
Should I wait until after I have been admitted to file financial aid forms? NO! You should list any colleges to which you have applied on the financial aid form, even though you haven't been admitted yet. If you submit your FAFSA by mail, there is a turnaround time of four to five weeks after you mail the FAFSA before colleges receive your information from the federal processing center. (If you submit your FAFSA electronically, the turnaround time is two to three weeks.) If you wait until you are admitted, you may not receive an award letter until much later. Since grant funds are limited at most institutions, consideration for aid is given first to those whose documents are submitted within the appropriate time frame.
I'm going to be married during the school year for which I am applying for aid. Can I fill out my FAFSA as "married"? No. You must indicate your marital status as of the date you are completing the FAFSA. You can update your marital status once you have filed your FAFSA.
I'm a student and I've had a job. Do I combine my income with my parents' income on the FAFSA?
It is not combined, but both the parents and the student's income will be included. The FAFSA includes two separate sections - one for the parents' income and one for the student's income. Just like the parents, the student will need to also have filed a tax return and include his/her information on the FAFSA form.
If my parents are divorced or separated, whose financial data should be used when I'm completing the FAFSA? If your natural parents are separated or divorced, use the natural parent with whom you lived the most in the past 12 months. If you lived with neither parent, or lived with each parent an equal number of days, use the parent that provided the most financial support to you over the past 12 months. If that parent has remarried, you must also include the stepparent's financial information on the application, and parent and stepparent should report themselves as married on the FAFSA. It doesn't matter which parent claims you as a dependent on their taxes.
Example: You have been living with your mother and stepfather for the past 12 months. You would use your mother's income and stepfather's income, and you would report on the FAFSA as the number in family: yourself, your mother, your stepfather, and any other children that they support. You also would report your mother's marital status as married.
Can an adult apply for FAFSA support if he/she is going to go to college?
If an adult is interested in going back to school but needs some help with the expenses, he/she is perfectly able to apply to FAFSA for support, just the same as an 18 year old would apply. He would apply as an independent so there would be no reason for “parent information” on the application.
Should part-time students apply for FAFSA assistance?
Part-time students are elgible for most types of aid, but some colleges will not offer aid to part-time students. You need to confirm your situation with each school. (For many schools, full-time students must be taking at least 12 credits in a semester.)
If I am not a naturalized citizen, can I apply for FAFSA assistance?
Yes you can as long as you and/or your parent(s) have green cards.
What if I've been selected for verification? What does that mean?
Who is Considered a Family Member When it Comes to Filing for Financial Aid
Confusion is common in the areas of divorced vs. separated parents; adoptive vs. biological parents; legal guardians vs. foster parents; grandparents; and dependent vs. independent students for financial aid applications. The legal relationship of those in the student’s household is strategic in regards to whose income and assets are reported on the FAFSA, and whether or not the student qualifies as a dependent or independent student. Here is a simple explanation of how to determine each one of these family categories:
If the student’s parents are married, their income and asset information must both be listed on the financial aid application. If the student's parents are living together and have not been formally married, yet meet the criteria in their state for a common-law marriage, then they should report their status as married on the FAFSA and report their income and assets. If the state of residence does not consider the relationship to be a common-law marriage, then the parents should file as if they are separated.Step-Parents
If the student has a stepparent, the stepparent's income and asset information must be included on the financial aid application, even if the stepparent was not married to the natural parent prior to signing the application. Prenuptial agreements do not affect this rule.
If the biological parent has died and the stepparent survives, then the student is considered an "independent student" (assuming the student is not dependent on the surviving parent), unless the stepparent legally adopted the student.
Divorced or Separated Parents
If the parents are divorced or separated, the income and asset information of the parent with whom the student lived the most in the last twelve months must be listed. The separation need not be a legal separation. The student's parents may consider themselves separated if one of the parents has left the household for an indefinite period of time and no longer makes a substantial contribution to the finances of the household.
If the student did not live with one parent more than with the other (as in the cases of joint custody), the income and asset information of the parent who provided the majority of financial support during the last twelve months must be listed. Support includes money, gifts, loans, housing, food, clothes, car, medical and dental care, payment of college costs, etc.
Widowed or Single Parents
If the parent is widowed or single, only that parent’s income and asset information is listed on the financial aid application. If a parent dies before the application is signed, only the surviving parent's income and assets are listed on the application. When a joint tax return has been filed, the surviving parent's income and corresponding tax liability is separated out and only these amounts are listed on the application. The surviving parent must list only his/her income and assets at the time of signing the application. Should both the student's parents be deceased at the time the student signs the application, the student is considered an "independent student."
Adoptive parents are treated in the same manner as biological parents. Their income and assets are reported on the financial aid application forms.
If the student has foster parents, the foster parents’ income and assets are not reported on the financial aid application forms, unless the student is legally adopted by the foster parents.
If the student has a legal guardian, the guardian's income and asset information are not reported on the financial aid application, unless the student is legally adopted by the guardian(s).
If the student is living with grandparents, the grandparents’ income and asset information are not reported on the financial aid application, unless the student is legally adopted by the grandparents.
Number Of Household Members
The number of people in the student’s household is used in the calculation of the financial aid formula/FAFSA. The household number is reported on the FAFSA as of the date the FAFSA form is signed. Specifically, the “number of household members”, includes:
The student (even if the student does not live with the parents),
The student’s parents, including guardians or custodians,
The student's siblings, if they received or will receive more than half of their support from the student's parent(s) between July 1st and June 30th of the upcoming college year or if they would be required to report parental information on the financial aid application,
The student's children, if they received or will receive more than half of their support from the student's parent(s) between July 1st and June 30th of the upcoming college year (even if the children do not live with the student's parent(s), they must be counted if they meet this criteria),
The student's parents' unborn child and/or the student's unborn child, if that child will be born before or during the upcoming college year and the student's parents will provide more than half of the child's support from the projected date of birth until the end of the college year (if there is a medical determination of a multiple birth, then all expected children can be included), and
other persons, if they live with and receive more than half of their support from the student's parent(s) at the time of signing the application and will continue to receive that support for the entire upcoming college year.
Number Of Household Members In College
The FAFSA form requests information on the number in the household that will attend college (excluding the student’s parents) between July 1st and June 30th of the upcoming college year.Members of the household (including the student) may be counted as college students if they are planning to enroll (or are accepted for enrollment) for at least six credit hours in at least one term.
Members of the household (including the student) may be counted as college students if they are planning to enroll (or are accepted for enrollment) for at least six credit hours in at least one term (twelve clock hours per week), even if they do not complete a term. They must also be working towards a degree or certificate leading to an education credential at a college or trade school that participates in any of the Federal student aid programs. A high school student merely taking college courses cannot be considered as enrolled in college.
Additional household members in college can greatly reduce the family EFC because the parents' contribution is essentially cut in half if there are two household members attending college, and a third is there are three household members attending college, etc.
An independent student does not have to report the parents’ income and assets on the financial aid application forms and therefore may stand a better chance to receive need-based financial aid from a college. To determine if the student qualifies as an independent student, the financial aid rules regarding independent students must be reviewed.
Myths About the FSA ID and the FAFSA
Myth #1: It’ll take a long time to create my FSA ID.
On average, it takes about seven minutes to create an FSA ID. If you previously had a Federal Student Aid PIN, you can link it to your FSA ID; this will help eliminate a few steps in the process. Federal Student Aid (FSA) has a variety of resources, like this helpful video, that walks you through each step of creating an FSA ID.
Myth #2: Only students need to create an FSA ID.
If you are a dependent student, then your parent will need an FSA ID, too (if he or she will sign the FAFSA electronically). That’s because you will need to provide your parent’s information on your FAFSA and your parent, will need to sign the FAFSA, as well. But here is something very important—your parent must create his or her own, separate FSA ID. Your parent shouldn’t use your FSA ID, and you shouldn’t create an FSA ID for your parent.
Myth #3: It’s okay to let someone else create or use my FSA ID.
Not okay. Each individual person needs to create his or her own FSA ID. A Parent should NOT be creating an FSA ID for their child, and a student should NOT be creating an FSA ID for his or her parent. For example, if a parent tries to create both the parent’s and child’s FSA ID, it’s easy to mix up information like Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and usernames and passwords. Because we verify your information with the Social Security Administration (SSA), it’s crucial that this information be correct. Also, if someone else creates your FSA ID, how will you know the answers to your challenge questions if you need to retrieve a lost username or password?
Also, FSA IDs are used to sign legally binding documents, so giving someone access to your FSA ID is like allowing them to forge your signature. Be sure to create your own FSA ID, and save yourself the trouble.
Myth #4: I need an e-mail address to create an FSA ID
You do NOT need an e-mail address to create an FSA ID. If you don’t have an e-mail address, you can leave this field blank. Adding your e-mail address is strongly recommended, though, because once your e-mail address is verified, you can enter it instead of your username when you log in. You can also use your e-mail address to retrieve your forgotten username or password or to unlock your account. It’s easy to update and verify your e-mail address by clicking “Edit My FSA ID.”
Myth #5: As a parent, I can use the same e-mail address for both my FSA ID and my child’s.
An e-mail address cannot be used with more than one FSA ID. If you choose to provide an e-mail address when creating your FSA ID, the student will need to include his or her e-mail own address, and the parent will need to include his or her own e-mail address. If you don’t have an e-mail address, you can leave the field blank.
Myth #6: I need an FSA ID to fill out the FAFSA.
The fastest way to sign and submit your FAFSA is to use an FSA ID. That said, if you or your parent don’t have an FSA ID, you can still submit the FAFSA. If you fill out the FAFSA online, but don’t have an FSA ID, you can choose the option to submit your FAFSA without signatures, and print and mail a signature page. If you can’t fill out the FAFSA online, you have other options.
Students without access to a computer can receive assistance from a wide range of college access organizations, like the National College Access Network (NCAN); a student can also visit a local library, use a computer at school, as well as get help from school counselors.
Myth #7: The Social Security Administration has to verify my information before I can use my FSA ID.
If you’re filling out a FAFSA for the first time, you can use your newly created FSA ID to sign and submit your FAFSA right away. But, if you need to submit a renewal FAFSA or make corrections after you’ve submitted your FAFSA—and you did NOT link your PIN when you created your FSA ID—you first have to wait for the SSA to verify your identity. The verification process takes one to three days.
Make sure to enter your information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card to avoid delays. Once your information is verified, you can use your FSA ID to submit your renewal FAFSA, make corrections, access your loan history, and a host of other things.
If you’re a parent, you never have to wait for the SSA match to sign your child’s FAFSA. However, if you sign the FAFSA when your SSA match status is listed as “pending” and it later returns “no match,” we will remove your signature from your child’s FAFSA. If that happens, you will either need to resolve the conflict with the SSA and sign electronically again, or print and mail a signature page.
Myth #8: Confirming my e-mail address can take up to 24 hours.
You should receive your e-mail confirmation within three minutes. Although, your e-mail account’s spam filter could delay your confirmation. It’s a good idea to add the FSA ID e-mail address—FSA-ID@ed.gov—to your address book to make sure you get your confirmation.
Myth #9: I forgot my password, and it’s going to take 30 minutes to reset it.
You only have to wait 30 minutes if you reset your password using your challenge questions. But, the easiest way to reset your password is to enter your verified e-mail address. Once you do, you can use your FSA ID immediately.
Myth #10: I used 2015 tax information last year and didn’t get any aid, so it’s pointless to fill out the FAFSA again.
FACT: Not pointless! Your aid award could be different this year.
If you filed a 2016–17 FAFSA and received an award letter from your school, don’t assume that next year’s financial aid award will be the same. We ask you to complete the FAFSA annually because the factors used to calculate your aid could change each year. Things like your year in school, family income, and cost of attendance at your school are just a few factors used to determine your aid. You never know what aid you may get if you don’t complete the FAFSA, so don’t let last year’s award deter you from potential aid you may receive this year. Even if you did not get the Federal Pell Grant last year, you could still be eligible for other types of aid this year. This includes work-study and low-interest loans. Also, many states, schools, and private scholarships require you to submit the FAFSA to be considered for their aid as well.
Myth #11: I have to update my 2017–18 FAFSA with 2016 data after I file taxes.
FACT: Nope! You won’t need to update your FAFSA since you will be using your 2015 tax information. Unlike the FAFSA in the past, you won’t have to use estimates or make updates after filing taxes. The 2017–18 FAFSA will ask for 2015 income and tax information which you should already have. Moving forward, the FAFSA will always ask for older tax information. For instance, the 2018–19 FAFSA will ask for 2016 income and tax info.
Myth #12: I can choose which year’s tax information I provide on the FAFSA.
FACT: No, you won’t be able to choose. The FAFSA has always asked for one specific tax year to be reported. The 2017–18 FAFSA will ask for 2015 tax information, and that’s what you have to provide. You can’t choose to provide 2016 information if you feel it’ll benefit you in some way. If your income was lower in 2016 than in 2015, you still need to provide 2015 tax information, and then you can contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend and let them know your situation has changed. They have the ability to review your situation and consider making adjustments to your FAFSA.
Myth #13: I will get an award letter from my school earlier.
FACT: That’s really up to the school. Some schools may send you an award letter earlier, while other schools may stick to the timeline they have used in the past. Remember that your school disburses your aid, not FAFSA, and each school has a different schedule. Contact your school for details.
Myth #14: I can re-use my 2016–17 FAFSA since my 2015 income and tax information will be the same.
FACT: No, you still need to submit a renewal or a new 2017–18 FAFSA. But, there’s a bonus this year! You will be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to electronically import your 2015 taxes right away. If you’re eligible to use the IRS DRT, this will speed up your FAFSA completion process.
Myth #15: Doesn’t matter to me that the FAFSA is available in October, I still have plenty of time to file.
FACT: States, schools, and the federal government each have their own financial aid deadlines. While the 2017–18 FAFSA deadline for federal aid is June 30, 2018, your state and school probably have earlier deadlines to receive their aid. For some states, their deadline won’t be a date, but it’ll be “as soon as possible after October 1” which means they have a limited pool of funds that may run out if you wait until the last minute to apply! If you want to maximize your potential aid, you should submit a FAFSA as early as possible after October 1.
Myth #16: I can’t file my FAFSA in October because I haven’t applied to any schools.
FACT: You can still file as long as you list at least one school on your FAFSA. It’s OK to complete your FAFSA before turning in college applications. On the FAFSA, add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. If you’re on the fence about a particular school, add it anyway. Doing so will hold your place in line for financial aid in case you end up applying for that school. You can also add or remove schools to your FAFSA later.
From NICCP - April and September 2016
INDEPENDENT STATUS FOR FAFSA
Students, do you think you qualify as an independent when completing your FAFSA forms? There are very specific criteria to follow if you think you qualify for this change in your status. According to FAFSA regulations, if one or any of the following apply to you, then you will be considered an Independent Student:
You are enrolled in a Masters program, Doctorate Degree, or graduate Certification program; your age does not matter, if you are enrolled in any of these types of programs you are considered and independent student
You have a child or children that are your legal dependent(s); you may have a family member etc. that is considered your dependent…he/she does not necessarily have to be a child
You are married
You are under the age of 24 and both of your parents are deceased
You were a ward of your state until you were 18 years of age
You are 24 years of age or older
You are a Veteran of the United States Armed Force
You were a foster child after the age of 13.
You are an emancipated child as determined by a court judge.
You are homeless or at risk of homelessness as determined by the director of a HUD approved homeless shelter, transitional program, or high school liaison.
You will still need to complete an application, and may need letters of support. Be sure to allow plenty of time when making this application!
Other Sources of College Assistance
Besides applying for FAFSA assistance - many colleges also have programs through PHEAA and a CSS Profile. Below is information explaining these options.
What is PHEAA and how is it different from FAFSA?
PHEAA stands for Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. PHEAA administers the PA state grant program, which offers financial aid (in the form of grants) to qualifying students. You must have filled out the FAFSA first to become eligible for a PHEAA grant. These grants have higher awards if you are attending a college in Pennsylvania. Go to http://www.pheaa.org/index.html for MUCH more information about PHEAA.
Does PHEAA offer any summer school tuition assistance?
PHEAA can offer summer grants for some students. Students must be taking at least 6 credits, be a PA resident, making satisfactory academic progress, and have the FAFSA form filed. Students will have to make the payments first as the grants may not be known prior to the time the bills are due. To apply go to www.pheaa.org - under “most popular places” click on PA State Grant Program – then Summer State Grant. Complete the grant on-line.
What is the CSS Profile?
CSS stands for College Scholarship Service. CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® is the financial aid application service of the College Board. More than 350 colleges, universities, graduate and professional schools, and scholarship programs use the information collected on the PROFILE to determine eligibility for nonfederal student aid funds, such as institutional scholarships, grants, and loans. This is money that the college may have from endowments or other special forms of funding. The PROFILE is a fully Web-based application system that provides students a secure and efficient method for reporting their financial data to higher education institutions. The CSS Profile is a more detailed questionnaire than the FAFSA, focusing on information about the specific programs at schools to which you are applying. For more information about the CSS Profile go to https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/financial-aid-101/how-to-complete-the-css-financial-aid-profile
Does it cost any money to apply for a CSS Profile?
Yes, there is a cost for filing your CSS Profile. In 2016 the fee is $25 for the first college, and $16 for each additional college. Students who are from low-income families with limited assets will automatically receive fee waivers. Almost 300 colleges and scholarship programs require the PROFILE.
How do I find out if my college requires the CSS profile, and if they do, what is the deadline?
Go to your college/university website. Under admissions/financial aid locate the college priority filing deadline for FASFA. In that same location – you should also determine whether your college/university uses the CSS Profile for purposes of awarding other scholarship funds. You should register for PROFILE as soon as you're sure about where you are applying for aid. This should be — at the minimum — at least two weeks before the earliest college or scholarship program priority filing date you need to meet. The priority filing date is the date by which the college or program tells you that you must have submitted a completed PROFILE Application.
How do I complete the CSS Profile?
PROFILE applications are customized for each student, based on information you supply during registration. Customization allows the PROFILE to respond to the unique needs of each applicant and provides a streamlined application process, by asking only the questions that pertain to you, your family and your financial situation. Register at PROFILE Online, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Registration requires a College Board online account.
How do I find other scholarships to which I can apply?
There are lots of other scholarships available - but each student must do the research and complete the applications on his/her own. Be very aware of deadlines so you don't miss out on some very obvious choices. One very popular option is the website www.fastweb.com. It lists lots of scholarships for you to consider.
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