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Financial Aid FAQ

If you need to look up a term or acronym, use our glossary.

There are many options available to help you pay for college like scholarships, grants, work-study, family contributions, savings, and federal and private student loans. Learn more about financial aid.

You should start applying for scholarships as early as September of your senior year in high school. Continue applying throughout the school year and every year you are in college. Learn more with our month-by-month financial aid calendar.

Visit for information about federal student aid. You can also visit your school's website and financial aid office for more information.

Yes. Many grants and scholarships are available to students enrolled less than full-time (i.e., half-time and part-time). However, all Direct Loans require students to attend school at least half-time. Check with your school's financial aid office if you plan to enroll less than half-time to see what options are available.

Yes. Visit to see whether you are considered a dependent or independent student.

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a form students and their parents fill out to apply for federal student aid. It is used to determine the eligibility for federal financial aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans. The FAFSA must be completed each year you’re in school, even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for federal aid. You should complete the FAFSA as early as possible because some types of federal student aid are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit to get started.

If your financial circumstances have changed since you submitted the FAFSA, you can contact your school’s financial aid office to appeal. Each school has its own appeal process, and you will have to submit new documents clarifying how your financial circumstances have changed.


If you need to make corrections to your FAFSA, visit for assistance.

Most financial aid is sent directly to your school and credited to your student account at the start of an academic term. Visit for more details.

Discover Student Loans doesn't offer federal student loans. Private student loans can be a good option to cover costs if federal financial aid isn’t enough.

There are millions of grants and scholarships available from a variety of sources, including employers, foundations, religious groups, clubs, colleges and universities, and federal and state governments. Many schools will automatically consider you for grants and scholarships when you apply for admission and complete the FAFSA.


To maximize money that doesn't have to be paid back, we recommend you consult with your high school guidance counselor. You can also use our free scholarship search tool to search over 4 million scholarships worth more than $22 billion.

Yes. We recommend you continue to apply for scholarships every year you are in college and graduate school.


Our top 10 tips for getting a scholarship can help maximize your scholarship opportunities.

Earnings from Federal Work-Study are taxable and should be reported on the FAFSA as wages. That said, Federal Work-Study earnings are not counted as additional income on the FAFSA and won’t affect your financial aid eligibility. For tax advice, visit or ask a tax professional if you have questions.

The FAFSA Submission Summary, previously known as the Student Aid Report (SAR), is an electronic or paper document that provides basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid and summarizes your answers to the questions on the FAFSA. The FAFSA Submission Summary also includes your Student Aid Index (SAI), formerly known as Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). Your SAI is what schools use to calculate how much financial aid you may be eligible to receive.


Generally, you will receive your FAFSA Submission Summary within a few days if you filed your FAFSA electronically and up to three weeks if you filed through the mail. It's important to carefully review your FAFSA Submission Summary so you can make any corrections to your FAFSA, if necessary.

There are guidelines about how to report parental information on the FAFSA if they are divorced or separated. For instance, you would report the parent who provides you with the most financial assistance—regardless of whether you live with them. You will also need to report a stepparent's financial information if the parent you report is remarried. Visit for more information.

There are no income requirements or cap to the amount of money you can earn to qualify for federal student aid. Most people qualify for some financial aid, so it's always a good idea to complete the FAFSA each year you’re in school.

FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover Student Loans.