Financial Aid – Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to receive federal student aid?
To be eligible to receive federal student aid, the student must meet certain requirements. The student must be:

  • A U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
  • Attending a participating college
  • Working toward a degree or certificate
  • Making satisfactory academic progress
  • The student must not owe a refund on a federal grant or be in default on a federal education loan
  • The student must have financial need (except for unsubsidized Stafford Loans)
  • The student must not have any drug convictions.

Is my application information safe on the Internet?
Yes. The student’s application is safe on the Internet. FAFSA on the Web, in conjunction with your supported browser, uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol to establish a secure session between your browser and the FAFSA on the Web server. All information passed by you to the FAFSA on the Web server will be scrambled through a process called encryption. WARNING: Scam artists sometimes approach students and offer to complete FAFSA forms for payment. Do not fall for this fraudulent activity.

What is a FSA ID? 
The FSA ID is a code that students and parents can use to:

  • Sign the FAFSA, the Renewal FAFSA or FAFSA Corrections on the Web electronically (no paper signature page required).
  • View the status and/or results of the student’s FAFSA, Renewal FAFSA, or FAFSA Corrections on the Web over the Internet.
  • Access the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) Web site ( and view information about loans and other federal student aid the student may have received.

The FSA ID is similar to the PIN used to access a bank account. To protect the privacy of the information the student is submitting, the student (and parent) must keep his or her FSA ID a secret.

If the student is a dependent student, one of the student’s parents should also have his or her own FSA ID to electronically sign the student’s FAFSA and any correction the student might need to make to it. If the student’s parents have more than one child in college, they only need one ID for all of the students.

Is electronic filing really faster?
Electronic filing is faster than filing a paper FAFSA. The process may be as much as 7-14 days faster if the student uses a PIN to electronically sign the application as soon as he or she completes it. Submitting the FAFSA using the Web eliminates delays that can occur from mailing. Also, FAFSA on the Web edits the application before transmitting it to the U.S. Department of Education, ensuring that the application is ready to be processed.

How does the student answer the tax questions if the student (or the student’s parents) don’t file a tax return? 
If the student will not file a tax return, the student should answer “Will Not File”. The student will then be taken to income earned from work, where he or she should enter any monies earned from a job that is listed as taxed on a W-2 form. The student should then answer only those income questions that apply to him or her from that point on.

If the student’s parents will not file a tax return, respond to “Have your parents filed a tax return?” the same way.

How does the student answer the tax questions if the student is (or the student’s parents are) separated, divorced, or widowed?
If the student is separated, divorced, or widowed, he or she may have filed a joint tax return. However, for the tax questions on the FAFSA, even if the student filed a joint return, the student should separate his or her tax information from the student’s spouse’s tax information, as if the student filed a single return.

If the student is providing information about a parent, answer his or her tax questions in the same manner.

What can the student do if the student and the student’s family have unusual circumstances?
The student must fill out the FAFSA accurately and completely to the best of his or her knowledge as of the date the student is completing it.

If the student and his or her family have unusual circumstances that the student believes are not adequately reflected on the FAFSA (for example, medical bills or unemployment), the student should contact the financial aid office at the school he or she will be attending.

The student doesn’t talk to his or her parents. What should the student do?
If the student cannot answer Yes to at least one question in the Student Status Step of the FAFSA, the student will not be able to complete the on-line FAFSA without providing his or her parents’ financial information. If the student does not have contact with his or her parents, the student needs to speak to the school’s financial aid office. They will be able to provide the student with options. We recommend that the student speak to the school before filling out the FAFSA.