To begin filing the FAFSA, go to fafsa.gov. The FAFSA is always filed from the perspective of the student, so keep in mind when it says “you,” it means “you, the student.”
You may apply for these prior to filing the FAFSA (you receive them immediately), or you can register for them while you are completing the FAFSA form. You will be prompted to verify your email address or FSA ID number by accessing a link sent to your email. This is not necessary to do – you may still use your newly-created FSA ID, however it will take between one and three days to verify the information with the Social Security Administration.
Be sure to keep your FSA ID username and password in a safe place. Currently, FSA IDs are valid for only 18 months.
At the beginning of the application, the student will be asked to create a Save Key. This is a temporary password that lets you return to a partially completed FAFSA. If you and your child are accessing his or her FAFSA from different locations, your child should do his or her part and then share the Save Key with you. You’ll need to enter it to get access to your child’s FAFSA.
The FAFSA requires federal tax information for both the parent(s) and student. See below for a chart that illustrates which tax year information is required on the FAFSA based on the academic year.
|When a Student Is Attending College (School Year)||When a Student Can Submit a FAFSA||Which Year’s Income and Tax Information Is Required|
|July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017||January 1, 2016–June 30, 2017||2015|
|July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018||October 1, 2016–June 30, 2018||2015|
|July 1, 2018–June 30, 2019||October 1, 2017–June 30, 2019||2016|
Note: If your family circumstances have changed since the year reported on your FAFSA, i.e. large change in income, marital status change, parent separation, large medical bill debt, etc., contact the college’s financial aid office and share that information with them. Each college may have their own process and guidelines, so contact each one directly.
When reporting the investment net worth, report the current value minus debt owed.
The total value of protected retirement savings are not included as part of investment net worth, but you must provide your annual contribution.
The FAFSA allows for 10 school choices at a time. You will be asked to note if the student will be living on-campus, off-campus, or with a parent.
When reporting parent information, it is important to include information from the parent that the student lived with 51% of the time. Parents must indicate the month and year they were married/remarried or divorced/separated. If the custodial parent is remarried, then all income and asset information from the current spouse must also be included. It is important to note that filing the FAFSA as a parent does not obligate a parent to pay, but does assure your student will qualify for federal student aid.
Be sure you or your child sees the confirmation page pop up on the screen so you’ll know the FAFSA has been submitted. Read the FAFSA confirmation page carefully. There are a few differences between the e-mailed confirmation (which arrives later) and the one you see at the end of the application, so consider printing or saving the confirmation page before you exit.
If you have more than one child attending college, select the option on the confirmation page to transfer your parent information into the other child’s FAFSA.
Applying for financial aid may require additional forms such as the CSS Profile or an institutional financial aid form (this form would be specific to the institution). You may also have to provide copies of your income tax returns or bank statements to the colleges. Make sure you submit all required documents by the colleges' deadlines and respond to correspondence from the financial aid offices immediately.
A: 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 are a few sources of aid such as unsubsidized federal student loans and PLUS loans that are available regardless of need but require that you have completed the FAFSA to be eligible to receive. The FAFSA form is free. There is no good excuse for not applying. College counselors at NHHEAF will help you file FAFSA for free. Just call 888.7.GRADUATE x119.
A: No. You can apply for financial aid any time after October 1 for the following academic year. You need to be admitted before the school will put together a package for you and to actually receive funds you must be admitted and enrolled at the university.
A: Yes. If you are receiving any kind of financial aid from university or government sources, you must report the scholarship to the financial aid office. Unfortunately, the university may adjust your financial aid package to compensate. Nevertheless, the outside scholarship will have some beneficial effects. At some universities outside scholarships are used to reduce the self-help level. At other universities, outside scholarships are used to replace loans instead of grants. To be certain about how outside scholarships might affect your financial aid award, it is advisable to research the financial aid policies of the schools to which you are applying (policies can usually be found on the school’s Web site under “Financial Aid”) or you can call or e-mail their financial aid offices.
A: The money you earn from Federal Work-Study is generally subject to federal and state income tax, but exempt from FICA taxes (provided you are enrolled full time and work less than half-time). Federal Work-Study earnings during the calendar year should be included in the totals for AGI and Additional Financial Information on the FAFSA. Work-study earnings should only be included in the Additional Financial Information section when they represent financial aid to the student, since the answer to this question is used as an exclusion from taxed income. The student should also be careful to report amounts based on the calendar year, not the school year.
A: If your parents are separated or divorced, the custodial parent is responsible for filling out the FAFSA. The custodial parent is the parent with whom you lived the most during the past 12 months. (The twelve-month period is the twelve-month period ending on the FAFSA application date, not the previous calendar year). For determining household size (the number of family members), the same criterion above applies to all children (under the age of 24).
A: Capitalization of interest is when the interest that accumulates on a loan is added to the outstanding principal balance, increasing the total principal balance. (Example: interest that accrues during a forbearance that is added to the loan prior to entering repayment).
A: If a parent is denied a PLUS loan, the student/family may consider other options. A different parent may apply for a PLUS loan, the parent may get an endorser or, more typically, the school may certify additional Direct loan money for the student ($4000 for freshman/sophomore years; $5000 for junior/senior years).
Okay, you’ve completed all your admissions requirements and completed your free application for federal student aid (FAFSA). Your college of choice received all this information, accepted you, and used your FAFSA (and maybe a few other financial forms as well) to determine what your total financial aid package for one year of school would be.
Because you completed your FAFSA, you were initially offered a Direct/Stafford loans from the federal government and it’s possible you were later offered a federal Perkins loan as well. However, before your federal loans can be dispersed to your school to pay for part of your tuition, fees, room, and board, you will need to do what’s called entrance counseling and then sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN). Your school will typically notify you by e-mail or by way of a message on your student account on the college website to complete these final two tasks. You will be prompted to go to studentloans.gov and there on the left side menu you will see links for completing both of these tasks. Have your FSA ID handy because you will use this ID to sign into the site for entrance counseling and you will use it to sign your MPN.
Entrance counseling is a bit like a short quiz designed to make you understand your rights and responsibilities as a loan borrower (don’t worry, it’s not a difficult “quiz” by any means; it is very self-explanatory). Basically, you will be asked to read a little on various loan topics including:
And you will answer questions about these topics in order to gauge your own competency with them.
To complete entrance counseling as an undergraduate student or graduate/professional student, you will need:
Useful Information to Have:
Any details on your income, financial aid, and living expenses. Some of this information can be found in:
How to Access Entrance Counseling:
Sign in to studentloans.gov using your FSA ID
If you sign in, you will be able to:
Parents borrowing a Direct Plus loan to pay for their child’s education are not required to complete entrance counseling.
Helpful Link: Entrance Counseling FAQ
The MPN needs to be signed before your loans can be dispersed to your school. You will put in some personal info, provide some references, and sign with your FSA ID. You may only need to sign the MPN once to cover all your federal loans for all four years of your undergraduate career, unless you change schools.
Students who need to complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) will need:
If you have previously completed either a Direct Loan MPN or a Direct PLUS Loan Request, some of this information may be populated for you. You should review all populated information carefully for accuracy.
Helpful Link: Master Promissory Note FAQ
Students will only receive an award letter once they have been accepted to a college and have submitted the required financial aid form(s). This letter, or financial aid package, is the official offer of financial aid from the college. The financial aid package may include different sources of aid to help you and your family meets the gap between your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the actual college cost.
Financial aid award letters look different at each college. Many create their own template that works best for their school. Some colleges include their estimated cost of attendance, or how much a student will potentially need for one year of college (including billable costs such as tuition, fees, and room and board if living on campus, as well as non-billable costs, such as transportation, books, supplies, etc.) right on their financial aid award letter, while others do not.
Some financial aid award letters will break down the amount of free money offered (grants and scholarships) separately from loan options (Federal Direct Loans and Federal Perkins Loans) and may include information such as net costs (a college’s cost of attendance minus the total amount of grants and scholarships awarded). The financial aid award letter(s) you receive from your college(s), may look different, so it is important to understand the various components listed on yours.
Since college financial aid award letters will differ in appearance from college to college, review the letters carefully to determine your family’s true out-of-pocket costs (cost of the college less grants and scholarships) at each college. Keep in mind that any Federal Direct Loans and Perkins Loans will need to be repaid, so while they are excellent loan options, they must be included in the total cost of the college. Use a worksheet like this one to help you conduct a side-by-side comparison of your college financial aid offers. Consumer Finance also offers a very useful website that helps families compare college costs and calculate possible loan payments based on the amount borrowed.