FAFSA Questions

Do I have to file a FAFSA?

What if I don't think I qualify for assistance?

When should I file my FAFSA?

What if I waited until the last minute? Can I still meet my deadline?

What if we haven't filed our taxes yet? Should we still complete a FAFSA?

Do I have to submit a FAFSA every year?

I have more than one dependent student. Do I have to submit a FAFSA for each?

How do I file a FAFSA?

How long does it take to complete the FAFSA?

What if my parents are divorced, remarried or widowed? Whose financial information do I include on my FAFSA?

How do I know if I am a “dependent” or “independent” student?

Who can I contact for assistance if I need help completing my FAFSA?

What if I made a mistake? Can I make changes to my FAFSA?

How can I check the status of my application?

How will I know if my application has been rejected?

When will I receive my Financial Aid Award Notice?

The Answers

Do I have to file a FAFSA?

To be considered for federal financial aid, you must complete and submit a FAFSA. Additionally, most states, colleges and universities use the FAFSA to award other types of student aid, including state- and college-sponsored financial aid, such as grants, educational loans, and work-study programs.

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What if I don't think I qualify for assistance?

Even if you think your family earns too much to qualify for aid, or too little for the aid to make much of a difference, students are encouraged to complete and submit a FAFSA.

Regardless of income, most families are eligible for multiple types of aid, such as federal loans (Stafford and PLUS), and students are frequently surprised by the amount of aid for which they qualify. Filing is free, and unless you apply, you'll never know how much assistance you may be eligible to receive.

Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. Advantage

If you use our FAFSAFirst™ preparation and filing service to complete your FAFSA before January 1st, you'll receive a FAFSAFirst™ Summary report which includes an early estimate of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) so that you can begin your financial planning. We use the official Department of Education Federal Need Analysis Methodology (formula and tables) in calculating the preliminary EFC, so you'll have a pretty good idea of what you can expect on your Student Aid Report.

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When should I file my FAFSA?

File as early as possible, or at least before your college and state grant agencies' financial aid deadlines or preferred filing dates. Most student financial aid is limited (there isn't always enough for everyone who applies) and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, submitting your application early/on time ensures that you'll be considered for the maximum amount of aid for which you may be eligible.

Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. Advantage

If you use our FAFSA preparation and filing service to complete your FAFSA before January 1st, yours will be among the first in the nation to be submitted to the federal processor when they begin accepting applications for the 2015-16 school year. Even when you apply after January 1st, most applications can be completed and filed quickly—an especially important benefit for those facing a filing deadline.

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What if I waited until the last minute? Can I still meet my deadline?

It depends on how you file. If you're filing by paper, you'll need to factor in time for postal delivery of your application and 2-3 weeks for processing. When filing online using the Department of Education's website, you'll also need to allow time to apply for and be issued a Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number (PIN) if you choose to sign electronically.

Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. Advantage

When up against a deadline, our FAFSA preparation and filing service offers a fast and easy way to complete your FAFSA. Most applications are completed within minutes—no PINS, no waiting! And, only Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. offers “Deadline Advantage,” an exclusive set of features and benefits designed to help subscribers—including late filers—in meeting submission deadlines. (See FAFSA Deadlines for details.)

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What if we haven't filed our taxes yet? Should we still complete a FAFSA?

Yes. You can estimate your income (using pay stubs, W-2s, 1099s, bank statements, etc. whenever possible), and then make any necessary adjustments later, once you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). There is no penalty for estimating your income on your FAFSAalthough you will need to make any adjustments once your taxes are completed. Better to estimate and file on time, so you'll receive consideration for the maximum amount of aid available, than to file late and miss out on part or all of the aid for which you might have otherwise been eligible.

Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. Advantage

We calculate your estimated taxes using federal income tax tables. This means that your estimated financial information will likely be close to your final tax return, thereby reducing the chances of your application being selected for “verification,” which can slow down the financial aid process. Verification is when a financial aid office requests additional documentation, such as your tax return, in order to validate information on the FAFSA.

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Do I have to submit a FAFSA every year?

Yes. You must file a FAFSA each year in order to be considered for most types of student financial aid, including non-need-based federal aid.

Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. Advantage

We make annual FAFSA filings easy. When you renew, we'll pull relevant information from your previous FAFSA, eliminating tedious duplication of effort and making the already simplified process even easier—and you'll still receive personalized review of your application by a member of our Application Review and Processing Team.

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I have more than one dependent student. Do I have to submit a FAFSA for each?

Yes. The Department of Education requires that a FAFSA be submitted every award year for each student seeking aid.

Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. Advantage

We offer an easy and affordable way for parents to submit FAFSA applications for multiple students by preparing the parent portion of the application and then carrying it over on each individual student's application—all for a discounted fee.

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How do I file a FAFSA?

You have several options for completing and submitting (or filing) a FAFSA:

Bullet Use our fee-based FAFSA preparation and filing service to quickly and easily prepare and electronically file your FAFSA application.
Bullet Submit a FAFSA yourself by filling out and mailing a paper application.
Bullet Complete and electronically submit the application online through the Department of Education's website.

IMPORTANT: See FAFSA Filing Options for details, including some important considerations in determining which filing method is right for you.

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How long does it take to complete the FAFSA?

It depends. According to the Department of Education (ED) FAFSA website, it generally takes 1-2 hours for individuals using their electronic filing services. When using the ED website, you and your parent(s) (for dependent students) will also have to apply for and wait for a Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number (PIN) if you choose to electronically sign your application, which can add up to a few days onto the process.

Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. Advantage

When you use our FAFSA preparation and filing service, your application can be quickly and easily completed—no need to apply for and wait for a PIN!

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What if my parents are divorced, remarried or widowed? Whose financial information do I include on my FAFSA?

You can use the following guidelines to help you determine which information to include on the application:

Bullet If your parents are both living and married to each other, provide information for both of them.
Bullet If your parent is widowed or single, provide information for that parent.
Bullet If your widowed parent is remarried as of today, provide information for that parent and the person to whom your parent is married (your stepparent). (Note: If the stepparent was previously married and pays child support to an ex-spouse, this amount is treated as an “income exclusion” and is used to reduce your family's total income on the FAFSA.)
Bullet If your parents are divorced or separated, provide information for your “custodial” parent. The custodial parent is the parent with whom you lived most during the previous 12 months. If your parents have joint custody and you lived with each for the same amount of time during the prior year, then include the information for the parent who provided the most financial support to you.

Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. Advantage

Our professional team of Student Aid Advisors can personally assist you in completing your FAFSA, even in instances where reporting income, assets and tax information may seem complicated or confusing, such as in the case of non-traditional households, divorce, separation, self-employment or other special circumstances. (See FAFSA Services for details.)

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How do I know if I am a “dependent” or “independent” student?

The Department of Education uses a very rigid set of criteria for determining whether a student is INDEPENDENT for financial aid consideration (which means that the custodial parents' income and asset information is not considered in determining a student's financial aid, and therefore not required on the FAFSA).

Regardless of how much support you may actually receive from your parents or legal guardians, you are still likely to be considered a DEPENDENT student for financial aid purposes unless you meet certain criteria (see FAFSA Dependency). Exceptions are granted rarely and only in extreme cases.

However, if you have special circumstances that you feel warrant consideration, and for which you may be able to provide documentation, you may contact your school's financial aid office. Only your school's financial aid office may issue a “dependency override” on the FAFSA application.

IMPORTANT: If you are considered a DEPENDENT student and do not provide your parents' information on your FAFSA, your application WILL BE REJECTED.

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Who can I contact for assistance if I need help completing my FAFSA?

When you use our FAFSA preparation and filing service, you can contact us by e-mail (clientservice@FAFSA.com) or by phone (1.866.550.5120), and our experienced team of Student Aid Advisors will personally assist you. If you choose to file your FAFSA yourself, you can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center.

Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. Advantage

Our team of professional Student Aid Advisors can offer personalized, one-on-one assistance in completing your FAFSA application, and we operate on an extended schedule during peak filing periods to help ensure that we're available when you need us. In addition, a member of our Application Review and Processing Team will personally review your application for inconsistencies before electronically submitting it, thereby helping to minimize potential processing errors, rejections and delays experienced by many who file on their own. (See FAFSA Filing Options for details.)

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What if I made a mistake? Can I make changes to my FAFSA?

If you used the Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. FAFSA preparation and filing service, you can make changes to your FAFSA before it is submitted to the federal processor by logging in to your account under the My FAFSA section of our website (Student Financial Aid Services, Inc.) and making them online, or by calling us (1.866.550.5120) and having one of our Student Aid Advisors assist you. If you used the Department of Education (ED) website to begin your FAFSA and then saved it, you may log in and make changes to your FAFSA on their website before it is submitted to the federal processor.

Once your FAFSA has been submitted to the federal processor—either by mail or electronically through the Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. FAFSA preparation and filing service or the ED website—you will need to wait until after it has been processed and a Student Aid Report (SAR) has been generated in order to make any necessary changes.

You have several options for making changes to the SAR:

Bullet Make corrections on the 4-page paper SAR and mail it to the address listed on the last page. An updated SAR will be sent to you within 2-3 weeks.
Bullet Make corrections directly online at the Department of Education website by using a Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number (PIN). An updated SAR will be e-mailed to youtypically within 3 days.
Bullet To add a college to your FAFSA application or to update a mailing address, you may call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1.800.433.3243. You will need to provide them with the Data Release Number (DRN) that appears on the SAR in order for them to assist you.
Bullet You may contact the financial aid office at your school and request that they make changes to your FAFSA/SAR record. If they are willing to do this, they will also need your Data Release Number.

(Note: If you made a mistake in entering the student's date of birth, you will need to make corrections using the 4-page, paper Student Aid Report. If you made a mistake in entering your Social Security Number, or if a misspelling of the student's last name affected the first two letters of the last name, please phone us at 1.866.550.5120 to speak with one of our Student Aid Advisors. You may need to submit a new FAFSA to avoid potential confusion, and we will guide you through this process.)

(See FAFSA Corrections for more information on making changes, and to download our step-by-step “FAFSA Corrections Guide.”)

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How can I check the status of my application?

There are several options for checking your application status:

Bullet Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. users can log in to their My FAFSA account on our secure website to check their application status online at any time.
Bullet Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1.800.433.3243 to learn the status of your FAFSA.
Bullet Check the status of your application online through the ED website.
Bullet Contact your school's financial aid administrators for information.

Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. Advantage

When you use our FAFSA preparation and filing service, the status of your application will be monitored, and you will be automatically notified once it has been fully processed. You may also log in to your My FAFSA account on our secure website and check your application status at any time.

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How will I know if my application has been rejected?

The Student Aid Report (SAR) is your record that the federal government has processed your FAFSA. To be sure that it was not rejected, you can look on the first page next to the letters EFC (which stand for Expected Family Contribution). If there are no numbers after the letters EFC, your application has been rejected and needs correction. It is also possible that there may be a “C” after the letters EFC. This also means that corrections are required.

Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. Advantage

A member of our Application Review and Processing Team will personally review your application prior to submission to reduce the possibility for errors and omissions that may result in rejections and delays. And, we'll monitor your application status daily until it has been fully processed—keeping you informed every step of the way.

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When will I receive my Financial Aid Award Notice?

Most financial aid offices begin sending Financial Aid Award Notices in the spring. You can call us or your school financial aid office to find out exactly when they will be sending them out. Be advised, however, that many financial aid offices will not begin preparing award packages until after you have been accepted for admission.

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