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- Applying for Financial Aid
To apply for federal student aid and NY state aid, you need to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) application. Completing and submitting the applications are free and quick, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college.
If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you could be missing out on a lot of financial aid. The FAFSA becomes available in early January each year.
The following steps will provide you with information on how to apply for federal and New York State financial aid.
Collect your parents’ and if applicable, your income tax returns, Social Security numbers, W-2 form(s), and other records of income and assets. Tax information can be estimated and corrected later if a tax return has not yet been completed. Get free information and assistance from a school counselor, the Financial Aid Office at the college you plan to attend, or the U.S. Department of Education at www.studentaid.ed.gov or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
Frequently Asked Questions
How soon after January 1st should I complete the FAFSA? Is it better to wait until your income tax forms have been completed?
At CUNY, the first financial aid awards are sent in early April so it is recommended that you try to file your taxes early and file your FAFSA after you complete your taxes. It is better to file your taxes early, but it is ok to use estimates of your income, as long they are not very far off from the actual values. You will have an opportunity to correct it later.
What information do I need to complete a FAFSA?
- Social Security numbers of student and parents (parents Social Security numbers are needed for dependent students)
- An FSA ID for you and one of your parents if you are considered Dependent
- W-2 forms and other records of money earned by student and parents, if you are a dependent student
- Students and parents’ federal income tax returns (parents tax return is needed for dependent students and spouses tax return is needed for independent students)
- Current bank statements Current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond and other investment records
- Alien registration card, if you’re not a U.S. citizen
Students and Parents should apply for a federal student aid FSA ID which is comprised of a user-selected username and password. With your FSA ID, you can “sign” your FAFSA electronically and complete the federal student aid process completely online. Also you can make corrections to your application once it is filed and access your information online. If you are under 24 years old, it is likely you and one of your parents will each need an FSA ID. You can apply for an FSA ID at www.fsaid.ed.gov. You will use the same FSA ID to reapply and to access your student aid records each year.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an FSA ID and what is it used for?
An FSA ID is a username and password that you must use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites. Your FSA ID identifies you as someone who has the right to access you own personal Information on ED websites such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at www.fafsa.gov.
Your FSA ID is used to sign legally binding documents electronically. It has the same legal status as a written signature.
When should I get an FSA ID?
You, and your parent if you’re a dependent student, can apply for an FSA ID any time. If you don’t have one by the time you fill out your FAFSA, you will be prompted to apply for one. However, if you think the Social Security Administration might have the wrong name or date of birth for you in its records, go to www.ssa.gov to find out how to correct any errors. Your information must be correct with SSA before you can get an FSA ID and your FAFSA can be processed.
How do I get an FSA ID?
You can create an FSA ID when logging into certain ED websites, including this one. Create an FSA ID now.
The FSA ID process consists of three main steps:
1. Enter your log-in information.
- Provide your e-mail address, a unique username and password and verify that you are at least 13 years old.
2. Enter your personal information.
- Provide your Social Security number, name and date of birth.
- Include your mailing address, e-mail address, telephone number and language preference.
- For security purposes, provide answers to five challenge questions.
3. Submit your FSA ID information.
- Agree to the terms and conditions.
- Verify your e-mail address. (Note: By verifying your e-mail address, you can use your e-mail address as your username when logging into certain ED websites. This verification also allows you to retrieve your username or reset your password without answering challenge questions.)
What if I forgot my FSA ID username or password?
If you have forgotten your username or password, you’ll find links that give you the option of retrieving your username or password through your verified e-mail address or by successfully answering your challenge questions.If you have forgotten your username but verified your e-mail address when creating your FSA ID, you can use your e-mail address in place of your username whenever you are logging in with your FSA ID.
What if my FSA ID was lost or stolen?
If your FSA ID is lost or stolen, you must update your username and password by selecting “Edit My FSA ID” from the log-in page. Contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) if you are concerned that your FSA ID has been misused.
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the application for federal student assistance. You can apply before you have been admitted to CUNY starting January 1 prior to the academic year you plan on attending. Apply online by going to www.fafsa.gov. Internet access is available at the financial aid office at each CUNY college.
For free help in completing your FAFSA or to obtain a paper FAFSA you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1800-4-FED-AID (1800-433-3243). For federal student financial aid information online you can go to www.studentaid.ed.gov
IRS Data Retrieval Tool
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows you and your parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA. Students and parents may transfer the data directly into their FAFSA. It’s available 1-2 weeks after you file your income tax return electronically. If you are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, it is highly recommended that you use the tool for several reasons:
- It’s the easiest way to provide your tax data
- It’s the best way of ensuring that your FAFSA has accurate tax information
- You won’t need to provide a copy of your or your parents’ tax returns to your college if requested
Note: To fill out and submit your FAFSA is FREE. There are websites and services not associated with the federal government that will charge you to fill out your FAFSA. You don’t have to pay anyone for assistance and there are many free resources for help, such as the Federal Student Aid Information Center by calling (800) 433-3243 and the college you plan on attending.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I apply?
You can apply for financial aid even before you’ve been accepted to a college. Most applicants follow this guideline:
For Fall, you should apply after January 1, but not before this date. Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. You do not have to wait until your taxes are complete. It is ok to estimate your income, as long as it’s not very far off from the actual values. You will have an opportunity to correct any information later. At CUNY we recommend that you do your taxes and submit your FAFSA as early as possible.
For Spring, you should apply before November so that your financial aid application is processed before you begin classes.
Do I have to reapply for financial aid every year?
Yes. You need to apply for financial aid every year. If your financial circumstances change, you may get more or less aid. After your first year when you apply, some information from the previous year’s FAFSA will be filled in. Note that your eligibility for financial aid may change, especially if you have a different number of family members in college. Renewal of your financial aid package also depends on you making satisfactory academic progress toward a degree, such as earning a minimum number of credits and achieving a minimum GPA.
Should I pay for help to fill out my FAFSA?
No, you don’t need to. If you apply using FAFSA on the Web at www.fafsa.gov, you can get online instructions for each question, and you can chat live online with a customer service representative. Another source for free help can be found at www.studentaid.ed.gov.
Whether you apply online or use the paper FAFSA, You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) with questions about the FAFSA on the Web, the paper application process or about general federal student financial aid. You may also visit the financial aid office at your CUNY campus for financial aid help.
How could I check the status of my FAFSA application?
You can check the status of your FAFSA immediately after submitting it online. You can check the status of a paper FAFSA after it has been processed (roughly 7–10 days from the date mailed). Here’s how:
- Option 1: Go to www.fafsa.gov and click Login.
- Option 2: Contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center.
If your FAFSA is still being processed, you should wait a few days before checking the status again.
Is this the only financial aid application needed?
No. If you are a New York State resident then you should apply for New York State aid by filling out a TAP application at www.hesc.ny.gov
Do I need to be admitted before I can apply for financial aid at CUNY?
No. You can apply for financial aid any time after January 1. To actually receive funds, however, you must be admitted and enrolled at CUNY.
What should I (the student) do if my family has special circumstances that aren’t mentioned in the application?
Talk to your financial aid administrator in your schools’ financial aid office. If your family’s circumstances have changed from the base year, due to loss of employment, loss of benefits, death or divorce, your school may decide to adjust data elements used to calculate your EFC. The adjustment might increase your eligibility for student aid.
I’m not sure if I want to work during the school year. What should I enter for the questions asking if I am interested in work-study?
Some schools use this information to put together a financial aid package for you. Answering “Yes” to the question does not obligate you to accept a work-study position. It usually just means that the school will offer you work-study as part of your aid package if you qualify. If you indicate on the application that you are interested in work-study, you can change your mind and not accept the work-study later.
If I live with an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, should that relative’s income be reported instead of parental information?
Only if the relative is your adoptive parent. Dependent students can be considered dependent only on their parent(s) and must report only parental information on the FAFSA. You must report any cash support given by relatives, but not in-kind support (such as food and housing) from relatives.
What if I live with a girlfriend or boyfriend who pays the rent?
You should not report any information for a friend or roommate unless the two of you are actually married or are considered to have a common-law marriage under state law. You must report any cash support given by the friend as untaxed income but should not report in-kind support (such as food). You would have to report as untaxed income the rent the roommate paid on your behalf.
When is student aid considered income when filling out your FAFSA?
Generally, grants, scholarships and federal work-study that do not exceed your cost of attendance are not considered income while filling out your FAFSA. Student aid is considered income when its taxable student grant and scholarship aid such as fellowships and assistantships which are reported to the IRS in your parents or your adjusted gross income.
If I am in the National Guard or am an active duty military member, am I considered a veteran for purposes of filling out the FAFSA?
If you were a member of the National Guard or were a Reservist called to active duty for purposes other than training and were released under a condition other than dishonorable, you are considered a veteran for FAFSA purposes.
I’ll be filing a tax return this year but I probably won’t get around to it until April. How should I answer the financial questions? Should I wait to fill out this form until after I’ve filed my tax return?
Ideally, you should complete a FAFSA after you’ve done your tax return. If you haven’t submitted your tax return, you should calculate your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and taxes paid using the instructions for IRS Form 1040. You can get the instructions and the form at a public library or download them in Portable Document Format (PDF) from www.irs.gov/formspubs/index.html Keep in mind that if you submit your application before you complete a tax return, you will have to make corrections later if your income or tax information isn’t accurate. You will also need to return any federal student aid you received based upon incorrect information.
If my parents are divorced, whose information do I need?
The parent with whom you lived the most during the 12 months preceding the date you completed the FAFSA. It does not make a difference which parent claims you as a dependent for tax purposes. If you did not live with either parent or lived equally with each parent, the parental information must be provided for the parent from whom you received the most financial support during the preceding 12 months or the parent from whom you received the most support the last time support was given.
What should you do if the parent with whom you live is remarried and the stepparent refuses to supply information?
If you are a dependent student and your parent is remarried, the stepparent’s information must be included or you will not be considered for federal student financial aid. If you believe that your situation is unique or unusual other than the stepparent’s simple refusal to provide the requested information, you should discuss the matter further with your financial aid administrator.
How does a family decide who should be counted in the household size?
Anyone in the immediate family who receives more than 50% support from a dependent student’s parents or an independent student and spouse may be counted in the household size. For example, a sibling who is over 24 but still receives the majority of his/her support from the parents can be included. Siblings who are dependent (as defined by the FAFSA) as of the date you apply for aid are also included, regardless of whether they receive more than 50% of their support from the parents. Any other person who resides in the household and receives more than 50% support from the parents may also be counted, as long as they will continue to reside with your parents and the support is expected to continue through June 30, 2016. An unborn child who will be born during the award year may also be counted in the household size.
Household size and tax exemptions are not necessarily the same. Exemptions look at the previous year or tax year and household size refers to the school year for which the student is applying for aid.
My parents separated four months ago. I live with my mother. My parents filed a joint tax return and claimed me as an exemption. Do I report both their incomes, or just my mother’s?
Report only your mother’s income and asset information because you lived with her the most during the past 12 months. Use a W-2 Form or other record(s) to determine her share of the income reported and taxes paid on the tax return.
If I (the student) am separated but filed a joint tax return, how is the information reported?
You should give only your portion of the exemptions, income, and taxes paid.
Who qualifies to be counted in the number in college?
Any person (other than your parents) who is counted in the household and will be attending any term of the academic year at least half time. The person must be working toward a degree or certificate leading to a recognized education credential at a postsecondary school eligible to participate in the federal student aid programs. You (the student) need not be enrolled half time to be counted in the number in college.
I’m a dependent student, but whose information do I report if my parents are divorced or separated?
You report 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 you didn’t receive any parental financial support during that time, you must report information about the parent who most recently provided the greater amount of parental support.
If the parent you receive financial support from was a single parent who is now married, or the parent was divorced or widowed but has remarried, your stepparents financial information is required on the FAFSA.
My parents don’t support me and won’t contribute to my education, so why am I still considered a “dependent” student?
It’s a federal regulation. There are basic requirements a student must meet to be considered an independent student. If you do not meet these requirements but you still believe you are truly independent of your parents, you may appeal for a “dependency override” in the financial aid office at your school. In unusual cases, the financial aid administrator can change your dependency based on adequate documentation of special circumstances you may have.
How do the schools I’m interested in, get my FAFSA results?
You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA. Those schools will receive your FAFSA results electronically.
What if I want my information sent to more than 10 schools?
When filling out your FAFSA enter 10 schools. After your FAFSA is processed you will receive a SAR (Student Aid Report), at that time you will be able to make modifications online or by phone and add additional schools.
The TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) application is for New York State residents to apply for NY State financial aid. Once you complete your FAFSA online, you will be taken to a Confirmation Page. Click on the link to apply for New York State-based financial aid and you will be directed to the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) website in order to fill out your TAP application. If you miss the link you will receive an email from HESC after your FAFSA is processed with information on how to complete your TAP application.
Frequently Asked Questions
I don’t think that I will be eligible for a TAP grant. Why should I bother to complete the form?
You’ll never know if you are eligible for TAP until you apply. By applying, New York State will determine whether you are eligible for a TAP grant. The application is free and you just might qualify. Many students who are not eligible for Pell Grants still qualify for TAP.
I missed the link to the TAP on the Web site when I completed my FAFSA online. Can I get to it any other way?
Yes. You could wait until you receive either an email with the web address of TAP on the Web. You can then set up a PIN number which will allow you to access the TAP on the Web and you can complete your application and submit it to HESC.Link to TAP on the Web
A few days after you complete the FAFSA you will receive an email from ‘Federal Student Aid’ with a link to your Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR contains a summary of your FAFSA information and a calculation of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – the number used to determine your federal student aid eligibility. Review your SAR to see if any additional information or corrections may be needed. It’s possible that you may need to provide additional information before your Expected Family Contribution can be calculated. You can also access your SAR at www.fafsa.gov with your FSA ID.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who will I hear from after I submitted the FAFSA?
The office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the FAFSA data you submitted. You’ll get your SAR within three days to three weeks after you submit your FAFSA. Be sure to look over your SAR to make sure you didn’t make a mistake on your FAFSA.
What do I do with my SAR?
Review it carefully to make sure it’s correct and complete. If it is and if it contains your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The schools listed on your FAFSA will appear on your SAR, they’ll receive your SAR information electronically.
What if I later want to add or change schools?
You can make changes online at www.fafsa.gov or you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1 800-433-3243.
How do I make changes or corrections to my Student Aid Report (SAR)?
If you need to make corrections to the SAR/FAFSA, you can make them online at www.fafsa.gov. You can make a few changes to your SAR information by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
The U.S. Department of Education selects a certain number of applicants for a verification process. If you have been selected, tax filers will need to submit Tax Return Transcript(s) from the IRS and other documents to your school’s financial aid office to verify the data you supplied on your FAFSA.
Being selected for verification does not necessarily mean that you made an error in filling out your FAFSA but in order to receive financial aid that you have been awarded, you will have to submit IRS Tax Return Transcript(s) and other documents requested by your school’s financial aid office.
To order a Tax Return Transcript, go to www.irs.gov, and click on Get Transcript of Your Tax Records and follow the steps or call the IRS at 1-800-908-9946.
Instead of ordering a Tax Transcript you can import your tax information into your FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Here is an IRS Data Retrieval Tutorial.
Frequently Asked Questions
My SAR indicates that my application has been selected for “Verification.” What is that?
The federal government uses a process called verification to help determine the accuracy of the financial information on your FAFSA. If your application needs to be verified, you will have comments on your SAR indicating what actions you need to take to complete the verification process. Your electronic record will also indicate that verification must be completed before any federal student aid payments are made. If your application is selected for verification, or if there are any other questions about your application, the financial aid office will send you a letter requesting you to provide documentation and complete a “Verification Worksheet”. Tax filers will have to submit a Tax Return Transcript that is obtained from the IRS or use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool that is part of FAFSA on the Web.
Once your FAFSA is complete and you demonstrate financial need, your selected college will send you an award notice indicating the financial aid programs for which you qualify. If you are not eligible for need based financial aid, you can contact the financial aid office at your college to find out other options to finance your education.
Frequently Asked Questions
When will I get my award notice?
It depends on when the college sends out their notifications. Some colleges will send you an award notice as soon as you are accepted (if your financial aid application is complete). Other colleges will have a set date when all award notices are sent to accepted students. Some colleges have rolling dates when they generate notices so you will get your award notification after you are accepted and as soon as your financial aid application is complete. Check with the college that accepted you.