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Filling Out The FAFSA: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), many students and parents have questions regarding information changes, timelines, requirements, application deadlines, taxes and more. Read on for some of the most common questions related to the FAFSA and some easy-to-understand answers.

What should I do if I need to make a FAFSA name change?

To change your name due to marriage, divorce or another reason, you must first submit a form through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Once the name change has been processed, update your FSA ID using your new last name. You should also change your name on your FAFSA by making a correction.

When does FAFSA pay?

The FAFSA serves as the official financial aid application for all federal, state and institutional need-based programs. It is shared with the colleges you list on your application. Each school’s financial aid office uses that information to determine how much federal aid you’ll receive at that institution. It is also used to determine the amount of institutional aid you are eligible to receive.. Your information is also shared with your state’s higher education agency and the state agencies in which your chosen schools are located. Many states also distribute aid based on FAFSA information. Each college that accepts you will calculate your aid and send you an electronic or paper award letter, explaining how much aid you’re eligible for at the school. The timing of this award letter varies from springtime for an award starting in the fall semester to right before the school year begins. Contact your chosen school’s financial aid office for more information.

What is a dislocated worker?

The FAFSA asks whether you, your parent or your spouse is a dislocated worker. To qualify, you or your parent or spouse must be one of the following:

  • Someone eligible for or receiving unemployment benefits (or who has exhausted eligibility for unemployment benefits or was ineligible because of insufficient earnings/type of services) due to layoffs or loss of a job and is unlikely to return to a previous occupation
  • Someone who is terminated or laid off because of a permanent closure of, or substantial layoff at, a plant, facility or enterprise
  • Someone who is the spouse of an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces and is a displaced homemaker or has lost employment because of a permanent change of duty station
  • Someone employed at a facility where the employer has announced that the facility will close within 180 days
  • Someone who is self-employed and is unemployed because of a natural disaster or general economic conditions in his or her community
  • Someone who is a displaced homemaker – a person who provided unpaid services to family members in the home, was supported by income from another family member but is no longer supported by that income, and who is unemployed or underemployed and having difficulty obtaining or upgrading employment

Is the FAFSA required?

To qualify for any federal and state aid (like loans, grants or work-study programs) or for need-based or merit-based awards that are managed independently by colleges and universities, you will need to fill out and file the FAFSA.

How much income is too much to still receive financial aid?

Federal student aid is awarded based on student and parent income and assets, household size, number of children in college and other factors. There is no set maximum for income eligibility. You should apply for aid each year, even if you didn’t qualify the previous year, because factors like sibling enrollment in college can affect your eligibility.

What does the FAFSA EFC number mean?

Your eligibility for federal student aid depends on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), your year in school, your enrollment status and your college’s tuition costs. The EFC is an index number used to determine your aid eligibility that college financial aid staff calculate per a formula established by law. Your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets and benefits could be considered in the formula, as well as your family size and the number of family members who will attend college during the year.

What is the FAFSA ID?

The FSA ID allows students and parents to identify themselves electronically to access federal student aid websites. It includes a username and password and can be used to log in to FAFSA on the web. While an FSA ID is not required, it is the fastest way to sign your application and have it processed, and it is the only way to access or correct your information online or pre-fill a FAFSA on the web application with information from your previous year’s FAFSA. The FSA ID replaced the previously used Federal Student Aid PIN.

What is the FAFSA SAR?

The Student Aid Report (SAR) is a summary of the information you submitted in your FAFSA, and it indicates your official Expected Family Contribution (EFC). You’ll typically receive it within a few days of electronically filing your FAFSA or within four weeks if you submitted your FAFSA by mail. If you believe any of the information on your SAR is incorrect, fix errors using the Information Review Form on the back of the SAR or by visiting the FAFSA website.

What if I miss the FAFSA deadline?

If you submit your FAFSA after the deadline, you will not be eligible for aid for the upcoming academic year. If you’re planning to attend college in the 2019-2020 school year and want to qualify for financial aid, you have until June 30, 2020, to submit your FAFSA. However, to qualify for most grant(s), scholarship(s) and work-study funds, you should file on October 1, 2018 when the FAFSA opens. If not, you should apply as soon as possible. Financial aid submission deadlines for your state and chosen college are generally early in this time frame, so you can get your aid by the start of the school year. Federal work-study, state, and college or university grants and scholarships are awarded to students who apply the earliest.

Is federal aid taxable?

Each type of financial award is treated differently on your or your parents’ federal tax return. If you are awarded a Pell grant, you won’t include the grant amount in your federal taxable income as long as you are a degree candidate at the college and use the funds only to pay for tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment. Work-study awards are taxable; government student loans are not; and any award you receive from the state is subject to the same federal income tax treatment as awards from the federal government. 

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