Frequently Asked Questions
About Financial Aid

photo of a confused looking studentFinancing your college education can be challenging and you probably have questions about the financial aid process. You’re not alone. Here are some frequently asked questions.

How do I apply for financial aid?
There is a standard procedure you must follow to apply for financial aid. This process starts in early October of your senior year and may continue until late August. This process is separate from applying for admission to college. It may seem complex, but if you take it one step at a time, it won’t be so overwhelming.

What forms are necessary to apply for financial aid?

To apply for financial aid you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You must file this form to be eligible for federal, state and other institutional aid (including loans). If you are eligible for the Michigan Competitive Scholarship through taking the ACT exam, you must file a FAFSA to determine financial need for this scholarship. Please note that some colleges also may require students to complete supplemental financial forms. Be sure to check with each college to which you are applying for their required financial aid forms and application deadlines.

Where can I go for help?

Your guidance counselor or the financial aid office of the college that interests you can help you. They can tell you what forms to fill out and the steps to follow to receive the financial aid available to you. Follow their instructions carefully. Filling out a form incorrectly or submitting it late could cause you to lose money.

How do I complete and file the FAFSA?

You must file the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. However, before filling out the FAFSA, you and one parent must apply for a Federal Student Aid ID number at www.fsaid.ed.gov. It is also recommended that you complete the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet, an optional tool that can be downloaded from www.fafsa.ed.gov. Completing this worksheet will help you make sure you have all the information you need and make filling out your FAFSA easier. 

What if I don’t have access to the Internet? Is there another method of filing the FAFSA?

While the U.S. Department of Education strongly encourages filing the FAFSA online—due to a lower error rate and faster processing time—a paper version is available by calling 1.800.433.3243. You may request up to three forms. In addition, a PDF version of the FAFSA will be available at www.fafsa.ed.gov/options. From there you can access the PDF, complete the form by computer or hand, and mail it to the address provided for processing. Whether you choose to submit your FAFSA online or by mail, it should be received at the federal processing center by the State of Michigan’s March 1 deadline.

When do I file the FAFSA?

You should file the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 of your senior year or the year before the calendar year in which you plan to enroll in a college, university or other school. For example, if you plan to enroll in college in 2017, you should file the FAFSA in October 2016; if you plan to enroll in college in 2018, you should file the FAFSA in October 2017. The State of Michigan priority filing date for the FAFSA for high school seniors and college undergraduates is March 1 in order to be eligible for state aid. You can apply for financial aid after March 1, but you may not be considered for state and federal financial aid programs. Colleges and universities may have even earlier deadlines, so be sure to check with the schools to which you have applied for admission.

Our tax forms aren’t completed yet. Should we wait to file the FAFSA?

Starting with the 2017/2018 academic year, the traditional FAFSA filing date of January 1 changes to October 1. The January 1 start date made it difficult for families to get their tax information gathered in time to complete the application. By moving the start date up to October 1, students will have more time to fill out this important information, they'll have tax information at hand, and families will have more time to evaluate financial aid packages offered.

Who completes the FAFSA?

The student applicant and the parent(s) fill out the FAFSA.

What if my parents are divorced, separated or married to other people?

If your parents are divorced or separated, you and the parent you live with the majority of the time fill out the FAFSA. If the parent you live with is married to someone else, his or her spouse’s information also must be included on the FAFSA. 

What should I do after completing my forms?

When you complete the FAFSA online, you will be instructed as to what pages to print. If you file by mail, keep copies for your files. Get a certificate of mailing from the post office if you mail your financial aid application form. This certificate verifies the mailing date and destination of your form. Only use first class mail. Do not send your forms by certified or express mail. It will actually slow down the processing of your forms. 

What happens at the federal processing center?
The federal processing center takes the information you provide on the FAFSA and uses it to calculate how much you and your parents will be expected to pay toward college expenses. The federal processor also calculates your eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant. The federal processing center will send the results and data from your application to all the colleges and universities you list on your FAFSA. The federal processor will forward you a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR will list your expected family contribution. They will email you the SAR if you provided an email address. If not, or if you filed a paper version of the FAFSA, they will mail your SAR. If you filed a paper form, you will receive your SAR about four to six weeks after you submit your FAFSA.

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