Frequently Asked Questions - Financial Aid

Who should apply for financial aid? How can I determine if I qualify?
The calculation that determines eligibility for aid is based on many factors. There is no "income cut-off." The only way to learn if you are eligible is to apply. And if your family circumstances change, the financial aid office will be in a better position to help you if your application is already on file.

Am I eligible for financial aid if I am not a U.S. citizen?
To receive federal and state financial aid, you must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.  However, even if you are undocumented or are not a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen, other higher education funding options may still be available to you.

How much financial aid will I receive? How is it calculated?
You can receive financial aid equal to your “financial need.” Your “financial need” is the difference between the “cost of attendance” and your “expected family contribution,” or the amount of money that you and your family are judged able to pay. A standard analysis is used to determine financial need. The amount your family is expected to contribute is calculated based on the information you reported on your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).


Cost of Attendance
-Expected Family Contribution
$Your Financial Need


When should I apply for financial aid?
Complete the Free Application for Federal Studentl Aid as soon as possible after January 1 for the upcoming academic year - generally fall of this year. Contact the financial aid office of each school you are considering as soon as possible and ask about their deadlines.

Be sure to submit all information and forms by the schools’ deadlines even if you do not plan to attend until winter or spring. If your application is late or incomplete, you may not be considered for all of the available aid programs or receive your aid in time to pay your tuition.

Will the school send my financial aid award with my offer of admission?
Not necessarily. Many schools offer admission before they can calculate financial aid awards. Check with each school about their refund policies for "enrollment fees" in case it cannot offer you enough assistance to attend.

Do income tax returns need to be completed in order to complete the FAFSA?
If you cannot complete your federal tax return before you complete the FAFSA - in time to meet school priority deadlines - use estimated tax amounts. If your estimated figures differ from the actual figures, make corrections on your Student Aid Report (SAR) or contact your school’s financial aid office to learn how to correct the information.

Be sure to copy all application materials, including your U.S. income tax return and W-2s in case you later need to provide a copy to your school.

My parents are separated (or divorced). Whose information should I include on my FAFSA?
Include information for the parent with whom you lived the most over the last 12 months. If you do not live with either parent or lived with both parents for an equal number of days, include information for the parent who provided the greater amount of support to you during the last calendar year. For additional information, review the FAFSA instructions.

What if my family has unusual circumstances or our situation changes after we apply for aid?
Contact the financial aid office of the school you will attend. Staff can determine if the change will affect your eligibility for assistance. Do not send letters of explanation with your FAFSA.

What happens after I file the FAFSA?
One to four weeks after you submit your FAFSA, you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). This document may give you some guidance about your expected contribution toward college cost, but it is not the final word. The school financial aid staff will make the final determination about your eligibility for assistance. Ask the financial aid staff when they expect to mail award notices. Dates may range from early spring to mid-summer.

What kinds of documents can the school request to verify information on my application?
You may be asked to provide documents to verify any item on the application. Keep a copy of your completed federal income tax returns and W-2s.

Can I apply for a loan in addition to receiving financial aid?
A student loan is a form of financial aid. The information on your FAFSA determines your eligibility for a loan. Contact your school financial aid office and ask about eligibility and additional application forms.

The Frequently Asked Financial Aid Questions are adapted from information prepared by the Washington Financial Aid Association.