Get some basic questions about the financial aid application process answered below.
Who should apply for financial aid?
All students and potential students who want financial assistance to attend college and meet the requirements for FAFSA or TASFA should apply for financial aid.
Who is eligible for financial aid?
The FAFSA and TASFA have unique requirements and criteria for applying which can be found here.
How do I get financial aid?
You must apply for financial aid through the FAFSA or TASFA. Even if you do not think you may qualify for aid, if you are eligible you should apply. Some colleges may require the FAFSA or TASFA for institutional need/merit scholarships.
What should I do first – apply to the college I want to attend or apply for financial aid?
You should not wait until you’ve applied to college or been accepted to submit your FAFSA o TASFA. The application for FAFSA opens October 1st of your senior year. The Texas priority deadline for FAFSA and TASFA is January 15, 2019. You can send your FAFSA results to up to ten schools you are considering attending. This can be done while you complete your admissions applications. Once your admissions application is complete, the college will match your financial aid information with your admissions file.
I probably don't qualify for aid because of family finances. Should I submit a FAFSA or TASFA anyway?
Yes. All students eligible to complete the FAFSA or TASFA should apply. Both applications are free and many colleges use it to assess your eligibility for scholarships and non-need-based loans. Additionally, if your family circumstances change suddenly, you will already have the FAFSA or TASFA information on file with your college.
Do I need to complete my income tax return before I complete the FAFSA?
No. The FAFSA currently uses your previous year’s tax return to determine aid. If your financial situation did not dramatically change over the course of the last year, you should complete the FAFSA using the most recently filed tax information. You should still make every available effort to complete your taxes as early as possible. Some colleges or universities may request updated tax information to complete their financial aid packages.
I filled out the FAFSA. How do I find out the results?
If you file your FAFSA online, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) via email within three to five days. The SAR will list all of the information you put on the FAFSA. This information also is forwarded to the colleges you listed on your application. Once the colleges receive the information, they will notify you of your aid eligibility or send you a letter asking for more information.
Understanding financial aid can be hard! There is a lot of information you need to know. Below are some common myths and facts to remember when completing your financial aid process.
Myth: My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.
Fact: There is no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. Many factors besides income—from the size of your family to the age of your older parent—are taken into account. Remember–when you fill out the FAFSA, you’re also automatically applying for funds from your state and school. In fact, some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—complete the application and find out.
Myth: Only U.S. citizens can apply for aid.
Fact: Qualified Texas residents who are not U.S. citizens may be eligible for federal or state aid. Learn more about eligibility for FAFSA and TASFA here.
Myth: Only students with good grades get financial aid.
Fact: The FAFSA and TASFA do not consider academic merit when processing financial aid applications. While a high grade point average may help with academic scholarships and other merit-based aid, many student aid programs do not take a student’s grades into consideration.
Myth: The form is too hard to fill out.
Fact: The FAFSA is easier than ever, and can be filled out online, and using a mobile app. The TASFA must still be completed on a paper application, which can be found here. Reach out to your high school counselor or a financial aid office for assistance. You can also reach out to Studentaid.gov directly at 1-800-433-3243.
Not completing the FAFSA or TASFA form if you are eligible.
If you are eligible to complete the FAFSA or TASFA, you should apply. The application is free and you are not obligated to accept ANY aid offered.
Not completing the correct form.
The FAFSA and TASFA are both free applications for financial aid. You should never pay a fee to apply for federal or state aid.
Not completing the FAFSA or TASFA form by posted deadlines.
The FAFSA and TASFA have state priority deadlines AND institutional deadlines. The Texas priority deadline is January 15, 2019. Please confirm with your college their financial aid timeline.
Not creating an FSA ID before completing the FAFSA. (Note: an FSA ID is not required to complete the TASFA).
The FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to the FAFSA.gov application. The student and parent need a separate FSA ID. The process of creating a FSA ID can take up to three days; therefore, you should confirm your FSA ID prior to starting the FAFSA. More information about creating an FSA ID can be found here.
Not using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if available. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is not available for the TASFA application.
Often times the most difficult part of the FAFSA application is entering financial information. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows parents to link their IRS tax information to their FAFSA application. This can help to ensure the most accurate information is entered. More information about the Data Retrieval Tool can be found here.
Answering questions on the application you are unsure about.
If you are unsure how to answer a question, do not understand terms being used in the application, or fear you might input incorrect information, save where you are in the application and seek application support. Mistakes or incorrect information on your FAFSA or TASFA could delay your financial aid process.
Sending your application to only one college.
You can submit the FAFSA to up to ten schools. Each individual school will create a financial aid package based on your financial aid information. By submitting to more than one school you will have more options to choose from when selecting which colleges makes the most academic and financial sense for your family and career aspirations.
Not confirming a completed application.
A submitted application is not a complete application. Your FAFSA application is not complete until you receive a confirmation email with your Student Aid Report and it shows you have no additional next steps for verification. If you are completing a TASFA you need to confirm completion with each school to which you submitted a TASFA.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
This glossary was created using information found on several publicly available resources.
Academic Year: A period of time schools use to measure a quantity of study. For example, a school’s academic year may consist of a fall and spring semester during which a full-time undergraduate student must complete 24 semester hours
Accreditation: Refers to the school meeting certain minimum academic standards, as defined by the accrediting body. A school must have accreditation from an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to be eligible to participate in the administration of federal student aid programs
Associate Degree: The degree given for successful completion of a program of study at a two-year institution
Award Letter: A method of notifying financial aid applicants of the financial aid assistance offered by an institution. The paper or electronic award letter usually provides information on the types and amounts of financial aid offered
Bachelor’s Degree: The degree given for successful completion of the undergraduate curriculum at a four-year college or a university. It is also called a baccalaureate degree
Borrower: The individual who signed and agreed to the terms in the promissory note and is responsible for repaying the loan
Certificate: The formal acknowledgment of successful completion of a particular program or course of study, particularly at a community college or career college
Commuter Student: A student who does not live on campus; typically, “commuter” refers to a student living at home with his or her parents, but can also mean any student who lives off campus
Cost of Attendance (COA): Generally, this includes the tuition and fees normally assessed a student, together with the institution’s estimate of the cost of room and board, transportation and commuting costs, books and supplies, the cost of a computer, and miscellaneous personal expenses
Credit (or Credit Hour): The unit of measurement some institutions give for fulfilling course requirements
Data Release Number (DRN): A four-digit number assigned to a student’s FAFSA that allows the student to release the FAFSA information to postsecondary institutions that were not originally listed on the FAFSA
Default: Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to when the borrower signed a promissory note
Deferment (of loan): A period of time during which payments of the principal balance are not required, and for Federal Perkins Loans and Federal Direct Student Loans, interest does not accrue
Dependent Student: A student who does not qualify as an independent student and whose parental income and asset information is used in calculating the EFC (see Independent Student)
Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Long-term, low-interest loans administered by the U.S. Department of Education and institutions. Loans carry a “variable-fixed” interest rate subject to change each July 1. Direct Unsubsidized Loans can be used to replace EFC
Eligible Non-citizen: An individual who is one of the following:
- U.S. national (Natives of American Samoa, Swain’s Island, or U.S. Minor Outlying Islands are U.S. nationals, but not U.S. citizens)
- U.S. permanent resident who has an I-151, I-551, or I-551C (Permanent Resident Card)
- Someone with an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing one of the following designations:
- Asylum Granted
- Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Status Pending
- Conditional Entrant” (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)
- Victims of human trafficking, T visa (T-2, T-3, or T-4, etc.) holder
- Parolee who has been paroled into the United States for at least one year for other than a temporary purpose with the intent to become a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The amount a student and his or her family is expected to contribute toward the student’s cost of attendance. The EFC is used to determine a student’s eligibility for the student financial assistance programs
FAFSA4Caster: Allows students and families to input financial information and receive an estimate of their federal aid eligibility before filing the FAFSA
Federal Direct Student Loan (Direct Loan) Program: The collective name for the Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, Direct PLUS, and Direct Consolidation Loan Programs. Loan funds for these programs are provided by the federal government to students and parents through postsecondary institutions
Federal Pell Grant Program: A federal grant program for needy postsecondary students who have not yet received a baccalaureate or first professional degree; administered by the U.S. Department of Education
Federal Perkins Loan Program: One of the campus-based programs; a long-term, low-interest loan program for both undergraduate and graduate students at a current interest rate of five percent
Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program: One of the campus-based programs; a part-time employment program which provides jobs for undergraduate and graduate students who are in need of earnings to meet a portion of their educational expenses
Financial Aid: General term that describes any source of student assistance outside of the student or the student’s family. These funds are generally awarded on the basis of financial need and include loans, grants, scholarships, and/or student employment
Financial Aid Award: An offer of financial or in-kind assistance to a student attending a postsecondary educational institution
Forbearance: Permits the temporary cessation of repayments of loans, allowing an extension of time for making loan payments, or accepting smaller loan payments than were previously scheduled
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): The financial aid application completed by the student, and the student’s parents if applicable, that collects household and financial information. The FAFSA is the foundation document for all federal need analysis computations and database matches performed for a student
General Education Development (GED) Certificate: Certificate students receive if they have passed a specific, approved high school equivalency test
Grant: A type of financial aid that does not have to be repaid; usually awarded on the basis of need, possibly combined with some skills or characteristics the student possesses. Also see Gift Aid
Independent Student: A student who meets any of the following requirements:
- Will be 24 years of age by December 31 of the award year
- Is an orphan or a ward of the court
- Is an orphan, in foster care, or a ward of the court, at any time when the student was 13 years of age or older
- Is an emancipated minor or is in legal guardianship as determined by a court in the student’s state of legal residence
- Is an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or who is at risk of homelessness and is self-supporting, as documented during the school year
- Is a veteran
- Is serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training
- Is married
- Is a graduate or professional student
- Has legal dependents other than a spouse
- Has dependent children
- Presents documentation of other unusual circumstances demonstrating independence to the financial aid administrator
Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU): According to Federal Law, the amount of Federal Pell Grant funds that a student may receive is limited to the equivalent of six years of Federal Pell Grant funding
Loan: An advance of funds evidenced by a promissory note and requiring the recipient to repay the specified amount(s) under prescribed conditions
Merit-Based Aid: Financial aid awarded because of a student’s achievement or talent in a particular area, such as academics, athletics, music, etc.
Need-Based Aid: Student assistance awarded because of a student’s demonstrated calculated need for assistance
Net Price: An estimate of the actual cost that a student and her family will expect to pay for one year’s educational expenses at an institution
Parent Contribution: A quantitative estimate of the parents’ ability to contribute to the postsecondary educational expenses of a dependent student
Promissory Note: The legal document which binds a borrower to the repayment obligations and other terms and conditions which govern a loan program
Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP): Qualitative and quantitative standards students must meet towards degree or certificate completion in order to remain eligible to receive federal student financial aid
Scholarship: A form of financial assistance that does not require repayment or employment and is usually made to students who demonstrate or show potential for distinction, usually in academic performance
Student Aid Report (SAR): The official notification sent to a student as a result of the central processing system (CPS) receiving an applicant record (FAFSA) for a student. The SAR summarizes applicant information, provides the EFC for a student, and displays other special messages related to the student’s application
Student Contribution: A quantitative estimate of the student’s ability to contribute to postsecondary expenses for a given year
Texas Application for Student Financial Aid (TASFA): ) The financial aid application completed by the student, and the student’s parents if applicable, that collects household and financial information for students that are classified as a Texas Resident who cannot apply for federal financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); the TASFA is used to collect information to help determine eligibility for state financial aid programs that are administered by institutions of higher education in the state of Texas.
Taxable Income: Income earned from wages, salaries, and tips, as well as interest income, dividend income, business or farm profits, and rental or property income
Unmet Need: The difference between a student’s total cost of attendance at a specific institution and the student’s total available resources
Verification: A process used to confirm data reported on the FAFSA; institutions are authorized to obtain documentation to confirm the information reported on the FAFSA.