Frequently Asked Questions: Financial Aid

Below is a list of frequently asked questions. 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 during the fall months of September, October, and November. Learn more with our month-by-month financial aid calendar.

The US Department of Education's Student Aid on the Web and FAFSA on the Web are packed with valuable information. Another great source of information is your school's website and financial aid office.

Almost all types of federal financial aid are available to students who attend school at least half-time. Check with your school's financial aid office if you plan to enroll less than half-time.

You can apply for federal financial aid as an independent student if you meet at least one of these conditions:

  • You are at least 24 years of age by December 31 of the school year
  • You are a graduate or professional student
  • You are a married student
  • You are a veteran of the United States Armed Forces
  • You are an orphan or ward of the court
  • You have children who receive more than half of their financial support from you
  • You have dependents (other than your spouse or children) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you

For information about federal student aid from the US Department of Education, visit Student Aid on the Web.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form determines your eligibility for Pell Grants, Direct Stafford Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and other types of federal financial aid. A FAFSA form must be completed each year that you wish to be considered for financial aid. We recommend you complete the FAFSA every year, even if you do not think you qualify for federal aid. You can apply online and a complete list of items you need to have ready is available at
FAFSA on the Web.

For assistance in making corrections to your FAFSA, detailed information can be found at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

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

According to a federal law, as of July 1, 2010, only the US Department of Education can offer federal student loans. If federal student loans are not enough, our private student loans allow you to borrow up to the full cost of your education.

FAFSA is a registered service mark of the U.S. Department of Education.

Many schools will automatically consider you for grants and scholarships when you apply for admission. However, to maximize money that doesn't have to be paid back, we recommend you consult with your high school guidance counselor and visit scholarship search engines for those scholarships not offered by your school. You can visit:

You can also visit:

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

We recommend you continue to apply for scholarships for your undergraduate and graduate studies each year.

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

Earnings from Federal Work-Study are taxable and should be reported included on the FAFSA as wages. That said, Federal Work-Study earnings are not counted as additional income on your FAFSA. We encourage you to consult a tax professional and visit the IRS website at irs.gov for more information.

Your SAR takes all of the information from your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and calculates your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your EFC is what schools use to calculate how much financial aid you may be eligible to receive. Generally, you will receive your SAR within a few days if you filed your FAFSA electronically and up to four weeks if you filed through the mail. It's important to carefully review your SAR so you can make any corrections to your FAFSA, if necessary.

The FAFSA is now available on October 1. This means you will now be able to use an earlier year's tax return to complete the FAFSA. Previously, applicants either had to file their taxes before completing the FAFSA or use estimated numbers, which had to be updated once the applicant's taxes were files.

When a student's parents are divorced or separated and not living together, only the custodial parent's information needs to be included on the FAFSA. The custodial parent is the one you lived with most over the last 12 months. If it was equal time, then it's the parent who provided the most financial support during that time.

If the custodial parent has remarried, the stepparent will also need to report their financial information on the FAFSA.

Need help with the FAFSA but don't know where to start? Use our FAFSA assistant for tips and advice.

There are no income requirements or cap to the amount of money you can earn to qualify for federal student aid. Many factors go into the financial aid equation, such as the number of children in college and the parents' age.

Most people qualify for some financial aid, so it's always a good idea to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Need help with the FAFSA but don't know where to start? Use our FAFSA assistant for tips and advice.