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Funding Your Education: 2004-2005
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Funding Your Education

Funding Your Education


Funding Your Education
Funding Your Education
Funding Your Education

Applying for Financial Aid

You complete an application to be considered for federal student aid. Applying is free, and you can even apply before you’ve been accepted to a school.

But I Hate Filling Out a Bunch of Forms.
All you need for federal student aid is one form: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In fact, schools and states often use FAFSA information in awarding nonfederal aid.

You can apply electronically, using FAFSA on the Web, from your home computer or from a computer at a central location like your high school, your local public library, or your local educational opportunity center. FAFSA on the Web can be found at, or you can access it at At this site, click on the FAFSA logo in the left column.

If you don’t have Internet access, you can get a paper FAFSA—in English or Spanish—from your local library or high school, the college or career school you plan to attend, or from our Federal Student Aid Information Center:

         Federal Student Aid Information Center
         PO Box 84
         Washington, DC 20044
         1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)
         TTY: 1-800-730-8913

Your college or career school can give you any other forms you might need for school or state aid.

If you use a paper FAFSA, just mail it in the preaddressed envelope that’s in your FAFSA packet. Or, before mailing it, you could check to see if your school, or a school that interests you, offers the option of submitting your FAFSA information for you electronically.

When Can I Apply?
For 2004-2005, you can apply beginning January 1, 2004. Don’t transmit your electronic FAFSA or sign, date, or mail your paper FAFSA before that date. If you do any of these things, your application will be rejected. For information on deadlines you must meet, click here.

Your eligibility is determined one award year at a time, so you must reapply each year you’re in school. The results of your 2004-2005 application are good only for the 2004-2005 award year (July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005, and any summer terms your school considers part of that award year).

After you’ve applied for the first time, you might be able to apply more easily and quickly in subsequent award years by completing a Renewal FAFSA. Generally, you would fill out just the information that has changed from the previous award year. The Renewal FAFSA is also available at FAFSA on the Web.

What Should I Have or Know Before I Fill Out an Application?
You need to have a Social Security Number (SSN). You’ll need this number to apply for federal student aid. We use your SSN to verify your information and locate your records. If you don’t have an SSN yet, you should apply for one at your local Social Security office. You can find out more about applying at

You should have a PIN. If you use FAFSA on the Web, having a PIN (your personal identifying number) allows you (and your parents, if they have a PIN and you’re a dependent student—see below) to “sign” your FAFSA electronically at the time you submit it. That way, the student aid process can be completed totally online. Your electronic signature holds the same legal status as a written signature, so don’t give out your PIN to anyone. You can request a PIN at

You’ll need to supply your name (as it appears on your Social Security card), your Social Security Number, date of birth, and mailing address. After that information has been verified with the Social Security Administration, a PIN will be generated. You’ll receive your PIN either through regular mail or e-mail, if you provide your e-mail address.

A PIN has other uses besides allowing you to complete a FAFSA online. So, even if you complete a paper FAFSA, you should request a PIN because you can use it to

  • access your processed FAFSA data, contained in your Student Aid Report (SAR);
  • make corrections to your application information;
  • electronically sign a master promissory note (for a federal student loan);
  • complete your Renewal FAFSA; and
  • access all your applicant data records online. You can, among other things, check your student loan history.
You’ll need to know whose information to report on the FAFSA. Because our aid is awarded based on financial need, you’ll have to know whether to report your and your parents’ financial information or just yours. Your dependency status will determine whose information you report. Most students who are entering college or a career school straight from high school are considered “dependent students.”

For the 2004-2005 academic year, you’re a dependent student unless one of the following is true:
  • You were born before January 1, 1981.
  • You’re married as of the day you apply (or separated but not divorced).
  • You are or will be enrolled in a master’s or doctorate program (beyond a bachelor’s degree) at the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year.
  • You have children who receive more than half their support from you.
  • You have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half their support from you and will continue to receive more than half their support from you through June 30, 2005.
  • Both your parents are deceased, or you are or were (until age 18) a ward/dependent of the court).
  • You’re a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. (A “veteran” includes students who attended a U.S. service academy and who were released under a condition other than dishonorable. For more detail on who is considered a veteran, see the explanatory notes on the FAFSA.)
If you do not fall into one of the categories mentioned above, you’re dependent, and you’ll report both your and your parents’ financial information on the FAFSA. This information will be considered when your federal student aid eligibility is determined.

If you do meet at least one of the listed criteria, you’re independent and report only your financial information (and your spouse’s if you’re married).

In special or unusual circumstances, a college’s or career school’s financial aid administrator might determine that an otherwise dependent student should be considered independent.

If you’re dependent and your parents are divorced or separated, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA using information about the parent you lived with for the greater amount of time during the 12 months preceding the date of application. If you didn’t live with either parent, or if you lived with each parent an equal number of days, use information about the parent who provided the greater amount of financial support during the 12 months preceding the date of application.

If the parent you receive financial support from was a single parent who is now married, or if the parent you receive support from is divorced or widowed and has remarried, your stepparent’s financial information is required on the FAFSA. This does not mean your stepparent is obligated to give financial assistance to you, but his or her income and assets represent significant information about the family’s resources. Including this information on the FAFSA helps us form an accurate picture of your family’s total financial strength.

What Does the Application Ask For?

Because the FAFSA asks for your family’s financial information, you’ll need your parents’ 2003 U.S. income tax return if you’re a dependent student. If you filed a return, you’ll need yours, too. Referring to the tax forms makes it easier to answer the FAFSA questions, which require information from specific lines on the U.S. income tax forms. If you haven’t completed your tax form in time to use it when filling out the FAFSA, you can estimate your answers, but you’ll have to correct them later. Bank statements, W-2 forms, records of untaxed income (Social Security or welfare, for example), and business or farm records also will be helpful.

Save all the forms you refer to when completing the FAFSA because you might need them later if your school asks you to show that the information on your FAFSA is correct. If the information is incorrect, you won’t get aid until you make corrections. It’s a good idea to keep a photocopy of your completed FAFSA or a printout of your application from FAFSA on the Web.

What if I Need Help Filling Out My Application?
If you apply using FAFSA on the Web, help is built into the program while you’re completing the form. You can also “chat” live online with someone if you have questions. For additional help, you can go to

You can also contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center with questions on either the paper or electronic FAFSA. You can get the help you need for free from one of these sources; you don’t have to pay for assistance.

How Can I Find Out the Status of My Application After I Submit It?
If you applied through FAFSA on the Web, you’ll get a confirmation notice after you click on “Submit My FAFSA Now.“

If you file a paper FAFSA, you can mail the postcard that comes with the FAFSA packet. We’ll stamp the postcard with the date we received your FAFSA and mail the postcard back to you. We’ll process your FAFSA within four weeks of the date you mail it.

You can also check on your application by contacting the Federal Student Aid Information Center.

What Happens After My Application is Processed?
After your application information is complete and transmitted or mailed to us, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) (if you applied with a paper FAFSA) or a SAR Acknowledgement (if you applied using FAFSA on the Web). But, if you provided your e-mail address on your paper or electronic application, you’ll instead get back an e-mail that contains a secure link so you can access your SAR on the Web. You’ll get this link in one to five days. If you don’t have, or provide, an e-mail address, you’ll get a SAR within four weeks or a SAR Acknowledgement within two weeks.

What Do I Do with My SAR?
Review it carefully to make sure the data it contains is correct and complete. If it is, and your SAR contains your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), your school will use your SAR as the basis to pay you federal—and possibly nonfederal— student aid funds. (Schools you list on your FAFSA will receive your SAR information electronically.)

If you need to make corrections, you can use your PIN to make them online at the FAFSA on the Web site, even if you didn’t apply electronically. If you received a paper SAR, you can put your corrected answers on the SAR, sign it, and mail it back, although this is a slower process. If you misplace your SAR, you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center for a duplicate.

You can check the information on a SAR Acknowledgement, but you can’t use it to make corrections. You’ll make corrections through FAFSA on the Web, using your PIN. Your school might be able to process corrections electronically for you; check with your school.

Make sure you keep a photocopy of your SAR containing the corrections.

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