The 10-step guide to applying for financial aid: everything is going well (2023)

April 12, 2023


Categories: Financial support

(Video) how to fill out the FAFSA and maximize aid (step-by-step guide)

Now that you've completed your FAFSA® and received your financial aid offer, you may be feeling a little disappointed. Maybe the school you had your heart set on offered just a little bit of help. Or maybe there's a small but significant gap between the cost of attendance and what you budgeted to pay for your degree. The good news is that your first offer of financial aid is not necessarily final. You can ask your school to recalculate your need with a financial aid appeal.

So whatesan application for financial aid? It is a formal request for additional financial support from the university that explains why you need the funds now. To help you understand the details, we have put together this step-by-step guide. How to make a unique appeal.

key takeaways

  • If your financial aid package is insufficient and your financial situation has changed or the FAFSA® does not accurately capture it, you may want to consider appealing your school's aid decision.
  • Appeals tend to be more effective if you contact a financial aid administrator directly.
  • A good appeal should state exactly how much more financial support you need and build a strong case for why this amount is needed.

What is a financial aid appeal?

A financial aid appeal is a formal process students can use to challenge their school's financial aid decision. While the eligibility requirements for an appeal differ from college to college, most require students to show proof of extenuating circumstances. If you can't prove a recent significant change in your financial situation, you may still be successful if you can explain that you only need a small amount of extra help.

Here are some of the extenuating circumstances that tend to justify a financial aid application:

  • Your parent or guardian gave birth to a child or took in a new relative.
  • Your father experienced a job change, layoff, or other significant loss of income.
  • Your marital or dependent status has changed.
  • Your parents have divorced or separated.
  • You have experienced the death of a financially affected parent, guardian, or other family member.
  • You recently qualified for onedependency override.
  • Child or spousal support has stopped.
  • You believe that your FAFSA® did not capture the details of your financial situation.
  • A natural disaster resulted in the loss of your family's home, business, or property.
  • You have had to incur new or unexpected medical or dental bills.
  • Your family is facing new child care expenses or you now have multiple children attending college at the same time.
  • You received a better financial aid offer from another school.
  • Other significant financial changes occurred between the time you submitted your FAFSA® and your financial aid offer.

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How does the financial aid appeal process work?

To be eligible for a financial aid appeal, you must have already completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and received both yourstudent aid reportand your school's financial aid offer. Once you have that in hand, it's time to start the appeals process.

(Video) How to apply for Financial Aid on Coursera

1. Read your financial aid offer

Your educational institution determines how much financial aid you are eligible for based on your FAFSA®. They compare the cost of attending school with your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and other aid you may have already received. One of the best ways to appeal a financial aid decision is to show that the FAFSA® did not paint a clear picture of your financial need.

So your first step is to examine your assignment letter. Add expected funding from any grants, work-study programs, or scholarships you've been offered. Then subtract the amount from your school's sticker price. What is your new ticket price? Is that a number you can afford?

2. Calculate how much extra help you might need

Now take a look at your finances. you have andyour parentsHave you decided on a number that each of you can contribute to your education? If so, what is the difference between your cost of attendance and how much you budgeted for?

If you only need a small amount of extra aid (for example, less than $5,000), you can appeal your school's aid decision. If you need more financial help than that, consider looking at other options, such as applying for outside scholarships or private student loans.

3. Wait to make a deposit

If you make any type of deposit before submitting your appeal, you are unofficially accepting the original financial aid offer from your school. By withholding the deposit, you indicate that your registration is dependent on your financial support. For maximum negotiating power, do not pay a deposit until you have received an updated financial aid offer.

4. Determine how your school handles financial aid complaints

The financial aid appeal process varies from college to college. To better understand how yours works, call or email your school's financial aid office. (You should be able to find contact information online.)

Keep trying until you reach someone. Try to get the name of the financial aid administrator handling your appeal. That way, you can address your appeal letter to a real person instead of using the impersonal "To Whom It May Concern." Also ask if any specific documents or appeal forms are required and if they have deadlines. For many schools, the sooner you file your complaint, the better.

5. Decide how much help you plan to apply for

Before you start writing your appeal letter, figure out how much financial aid you expect to apply for. If your parents are helping you pay for school, check that number with them. If you've made a personal connection with someone at your school's financial aid office, you can ask them how much the average financial aid application earns. Try to keep your request within this range.

6. Gather the necessary documents

Your school may require financial documents to show that you are dealing with special circumstances. These can include anything from a recent tax return or pay stub to a death certificate or divorce papers. Be thorough and considerate. The more airtight your case is, the more likely it is that you will receive the money you need. Do not skip this step, even if your school tells you that supporting documentation is optional.

7. Write a letter of complaint about financial support

The most important thingfinancial complaint letterit's your chance to personalize your appeal and make your app stand out. Your letter should be professional, yet passionate (here is a templateto help you get started).

(Video) How to fill out the 2023-24 FAFSA

Address it to someone on the Appeals Committee and include only specific, factual information about your financial circumstances. Be sure to itemize anything that has changed since you originally submitted your FAFSA®.

If you are an incoming freshman, you can "negotiate" with your college or university by showing them a better financial aid offer from another school. Be respectful, not harsh. Also, make sure the "competing" school is comparable in size and prestige.

If you are a returning student, you must demonstrate Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) each year to maintain your financial aid package. If your transcript has any gaps or missteps, use your letter to explain them.

8. Complete your complaint form and any other documents

If your school requires it, fill out an official appeal form. This document will likely include information about which academic year you are applying for, how much additional support you are requesting, and a brief description of your circumstances.

9. Submit your application

Once you've gathered your documents and completed your financial aid appeal letter, it's time to submit it. Check everything again. Make sure everything is directed to the right people and there are no typos.

Some schools still require financial aid appeals to be submitted by mail. If this is the case, you need to spend more time making your app look professional. Print your letter on high-quality paper and sign the bottom by hand. Consider adding tracking to make sure your app gets where it needs to go.

If you are submitting digitally, name each of your files clearly with your last name and document title. This will help the Appeals Committee to keep track of everything. Add a digital signature to your appeal letter to make it look official.

10. Follow up with a "thank you"

If you mailed your appeal letter, wait a week and then call your school's financial aid office to make sure they have received your documents. If you spoke with a financial aid administrator during your appeal, go the extra mile and write them a handwritten thank you note. (An email note can also do the trick in a pinch, just make sure it's specific, welcoming, and timely.)

How to make college more affordable

Hopefully, your financial aid appeal will allow you to get every penny you apply for. If not, there are still other ways to make your education more affordable.

  • Complete your FAFSA® as soon as possible to qualify for federal grants.Ideally, you have already completed your FAFSA®. If not, do it immediately (we can help you here), because some aid is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. You are automatically registered for need-based federal grants, such asSkin Scholarship, which is renewed annually and does not have to be repaid.
  • Also fill out your state's grant application.Most states offergovernment subsidies, which, like the FAFSA®, are based on need.
  • Apply for scholarships.Scholarships are an excellent source of educational funding because they never have to be repaid. You will also find prices that adapt to each type of student - fromsecondary studentsagraduate student.
  • Consider student loans.Sponsored by the United States Department of Education,federal student loansThey have low, fixed interest rates and flexible payment arrangements. Once you have exhausted your federal options,explore private loans, also.
  • Choose a cheaper schoolyo. Deciding where to studyit is a major factor in the total cost of your higher education. To keep costs down, prioritize public and government schools over private universities. You may also want to explore the possibility of starting your career at a community college or satellite campus. These options generally have lower tuition fees.
  • Earn college credits before you step foot on campus- LabelAP classesoPLA examsto get extra study time. If your high school offers them, you can also complete themdual enrollment classes.
  • Start saving early– Ask your parents about a 529 plan, which is a government-sponsored college savings account. You or your guardian can contribute after-tax dollars and then watch your savings grow. When it's time to go to college, you'll be able to withdraw your earnings without paying additional taxes.

Get scholarships with Going Merry

Applying for more financial aid is a smart move for many students. To make your application stand out, create an appeal letter that is professional, comprehensive, and supported by a large amount of documentation. Your college or university's financial aid office will probably read a lot of applications, so the more you can do to make your appeal unique, the better.

(Video) How to apply for financial aid in 2022 | Coursera Financial aid APPROVED | Financial aid answers

While you are looking for additional financial aid, you may also consider applying for scholarships. there is more than1.7 million university scholarshipsavailable, and some cover up to the full cost of participation. You can access many of these awards through Going Merry, a leading scholarship search platform that makes it easy to apply for scholarships online. All you have to do is create a profile with details like your GPA and demographic information, and we'll automatically match you with the rewards you're already eligible for.Suscríbete a Going Merryto start your scholarship search today.

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Going Merry is a one-stop shop for scholarships, allowing students to find and apply for scholarships directly on our platform. It's like the best scholarship search engine and efficient scholarship application form all in one. How does it work? You complete a profile, you are matched with the scholarships for which you are eligible, and then you can filter or prefer the scholarships in a shortlist of applications. Then, when you're ready to apply, our platform automatically fills in all the information you've already provided, so you never have to answer the same thing twice. Advisors often call us the "common scholarship application."

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How do I find my FAFSA answers? ›

If you have an FSA ID (account username and password) and your FAFSA information has been processed, you can log in at to view SAR information regardless of the method (online or on a FAFSA PDF) you used to file a FAFSA form or whether you provided an email address or not.

How do you answer Question 91 on FAFSA? ›

How to answer this question / fill out this section. You will want to list the number of people living in your household/home, beginning with yourself, and any other siblings or relatives for whom your parent(s) pay for 50% or more of their financial support.

How to answer FAFSA question 47? ›

If you have children, or are expecting children in the year for which you are applying for aid, you will answer “Yes.” If you also, or only have a dependent (someone who may not be your own child, or possibly even a parent), AND you also provide more than 50% of their living expenses, then you will select “Yes.”

How to answer Question 23 on FAFSA? ›

You will select either “high school diploma,” “GED certificate or state authorized high school equivalent certificate,” or “home schooled” from the drop down menu. You will need to have completed whichever option you select prior to enrolling and attending your college of choice.

What disqualifies you from getting financial aid? ›

Incarceration, misdemeanors, arrests, and more serious crimes can all affect a student's aid. Smaller offenses won't necessarily cut off a student from all aid, but it will limit the programs they qualify for as well as the amount of aid they could receive. Larger offenses can disqualify a student entirely.

How do I know how much financial aid I will receive? ›

The financial aid office at your college or career school will determine how much financial aid you are eligible to receive. The financial aid staff starts by deciding upon your cost of attendance (COA) at that school.

How to easily fill out FAFSA? ›

8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form
  1. Create an account (FSA ID) ...
  2. Start the FAFSA® form at ...
  3. Fill out the Student Demographics section. ...
  4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent. ...
  5. Answer the dependency status questions. ...
  6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section. ...
  7. Supply your financial information.
Sep 24, 2018

What happens if you don't know the answer to a FAFSA question? ›

If you are still having trouble with any question, you should consult a financial or legal professional. Or if you have specific FAFSA questions, FAFSA provides a support line (800-433-3243). The TDD number for hearing-impaired individuals is 1-800-730-8913.

What is a passing grade for FAFSA? ›

The Satisfactory Academic Progress regulations require that you maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) in order to remain eligible for financial aid. This cumulative grade point average is 2.0 on a 4.0 scale. If you drop below a cumulative GPA of 2.0, you will be placed on a financial aid Warning.

What is question 93 on FAFSA? ›

Previous. This is question 93 on the FAFSA. The response indicates whether the student (and his/her spouse) or anyone in the student's household (question 90) received benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at any time during 2021 or 2022.

What is question 69 on the FAFSA? ›

Your Parents' Number of Family Members in 2023–24 (Household Size) This is question 69 on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) PDF. Your parents' household size includes.

What is the question 51 on the FAFSA? ›

51. Does someone other than your parent or stepparent have legal guardianship of you, as determined by a court in your state of legal residence? See Notes page 10.

What is question 27 on FAFSA? ›

This is question 27 on the FAFSA. This question indicates the high school code from which the student received their high school diploma.

How to answer FAFSA question 32? ›

How do I complete the question “Have you completed a 2020 income tax return?” on the 2022–23 FAFSA® form?
  1. This is question 32 on the 2022–23 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) PDF. ...
  2. If you indicate you “Will file” a 2020 tax return, you should use estimated tax information.

What is question 38 on the FAFSA? ›

Previous. This is question 38 on the FAFSA. The response indicates the student's (and his/her spouse's) total net worth (current value minus debt) of current investments as of the day the FAFSA was completed.

Does FAFSA check your bank account? ›

Students selected for verification of their FAFSA form may wonder, “Does FAFSA check your bank accounts?” FAFSA does not directly view the student's or parent's bank accounts.

Does anyone get denied FAFSA? ›

Not be in default on other student loans: For those who are in default on other student obligations, it's possible to be denied FAFSA help. Make sure you are up to date on all your federal student loan payments or have properly received deferment or forbearance.

Why would you be denied a Pell Grant? ›

The U.S. government set up the Federal Pell Grant program to help students from lower-income families attend college, but many students find that they don't qualify. This usually happens because their parents have an income that's higher than the threshold to receive the grant.

What's the most FAFSA will give you? ›

But, the maximum amount can be in the low tens of thousands of dollars per year. Average amounts are about $9,000, with less than half of that in the form of grants. This table shows the maximum and average amounts for various types of federal student aid for undergraduate students for 2020-2021.

Should I empty my bank account for FAFSA? ›

Empty Your Accounts

If you have college cash stashed in a checking or savings account in your name, get it out—immediately. For every dollar stored in an account held in a student's name (excluding 529 accounts), the government will subtract 50 cents from your financial aid package.

How long does it take for financial aid to be awarded? ›

After you have submitted the FAFSA and then submitting the requested documents to the Financial Aid Office: 2-3 weeks. SMC to process your paperwork and awards your financial aid: 4 to 8 weeks.

What is the hardest part of FAFSA? ›

For many, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA is entering in the financial information. But now, thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer the necessary tax info into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

How do you answer Question 82 on FAFSA? ›

Question 82 of the FAFSA reads: “Did (or will) your parents file a Schedule 1 with their 2021 tax return?” The rules for answering question 82 are the same as answering question 35. You should answer 'No' if your parents didn't file Schedule 1 or filed it but only reported the excluded income and adjustments.

Can I fill out financial aid by myself? ›

You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) even though you do not have your parent's financial information. The FAFSA has made it easy for students who are applying for financial aid to indicate that they do not have any information from their parents.

What are the 3 most common FAFSA mistakes? ›

You'll have a better chance at receiving money for college if you avoid several common mistakes when filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Such mistakes include not completing the form on time, not filling it out correctly, or forgetting to sign and submit.

What is the question 87 on the FAFSA? ›

This is question 87 on the FAFSA. The response indicates the student's parents' total net worth (current value minus debt) of businesses and investment farms as of the day the FAFSA was completed. Business and/or Investment Farm value includes the market value of land, buildings, machinery, equipment, and inventory.

Can I skip parents assets questions on FAFSA? ›

If you're an independent student, you don't need to provide parental information and may skip the questions about parent household and finances. Note: Some colleges may require an independent student to provide parental information.

Can I get FAFSA if I fail a class? ›

Federal Student Aid

If you receive federal college loans, failing a class may disqualify you from them based on your school's SAP requirements. Federal student aid typically requires you to maintain a 2.0 GPA to qualify — so failing a class may put you at risk of losing it.

Does FAFSA depend on your grades? ›

Make Satisfactory Academic Progress

In other words, you have to make good enough grades, and complete enough classes (credits, hours, etc.), to keep moving toward successfully completing your degree or certificate in a time period that's acceptable to your school. how you can regain eligibility for federal student aid.

Can you lose FAFSA for bad grades? ›

One of the many requirements you need to meet to keep your financial aid is maintaining a certain GPA set by your school. If your grades dip below that or you have an incomplete class or withdrawal, it could cause you to lose access to all financial aid, including federal loans.

What is the question 71 on the FAFSA? ›

Why are they asking this information? This series of questions aim to determine if your parent(s) received any form of supplemental government (federal or state) assistance for living expenses, which may qualify you for Federal financial aid.

What is question 79 on FAFSA? ›

This is question 79 on the FAFSA. The student's parents are required to file a Schedule 1 to report income or adjustments to income that cannot be entered directly on the IRS Form 1040.

What is question 44 on FAFSA? ›

Question #43: Current Marital Status. Question #44: Graduate Program Status. Question #45-46: Military Status. Questions #47-48: Legal Dependents.

What is question 92 on FAFSA? ›

This is question 92 on the FAFSA. The response indicates whether the student (and his/her spouse) or anyone in the student's household (question 90) received benefits from Medicaid or the Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) at any time during 2021 or 2022.

What is question 94 on FAFSA? ›

This is question 94 on the FAFSA. The response indicates the number of people in the student's household, including the student, who will be college students between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023.

What is question 86 on FAFSA? ›

This is question 86 on the FAFSA. The response indicates the student's parents' total net worth (current value minus debt) of current investments as of the day the FAFSA was completed.

What is question 52 on FAFSA? ›

52. At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a dependent or ward of the court? You should answer ―Yes if you. • had no living parent (biological or adoptive) at any time since you turned age 13 or.

What is question 30 on FAFSA? ›

Previous. This is question 30 on the FAFSA. The response identifies the type of degree or certificate that the student is working towards during the 2022-2023 school year.

What is question 40 on FAFSA? ›

How much taxable college grant or scholarship aid did you report to the IRS as income? This is question 40d on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) PDF.

What is question 29 on the FAFSA form? ›

Question #29 "What will your grade level be when you begin the 2022-2023 school year?" Answer - "5th year/other undergraduate"

What is question 26 on FAFSA? ›

What will your college grade level be when you begin the 2023–24 school year? This is question 26 on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) PDF. This question can't be left blank. Select the college grade level you will be in from July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024.

What is question 73 on FAFSA? ›

Previous. This is question 73 on the FAFSA. The response indicates the number of people in the student's parents' household, including the student, who will be college students between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023.

What is question 47 on FAFSA? ›

FAFSA Question 47 – Grad/Professional Status

Question 47 on the 2022-2023 FAFSA asks, “At the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, will you be working on a master's or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, graduate certificate, etc.?” The answer to this question should always be no.

What is question 36 on the FAFSA? ›

Online Version. Questions 35 and 36 ask about earnings (wages, salaries, tips, etc.) in 2021. Answer the questions whether or not a tax return was filed.

What is question 41 on FAFSA? ›

Previous. This is question 41 on the FAFSA. The response indicates the student's (and his/her spouse's) total net worth (current value minus debt) of current investments as of the day the FAFSA was completed.

What is question 88 on FAFSA? ›

Previous. This is question 88 on the FAFSA. The response indicates the student's parents' combined total from cash, savings, and checking accounts as of the day the FAFSA was completed.

What is question 21 and 22 on FAFSA? ›

Why are they asking this information? This question asks you to report your parent/parents' highest level of education. Your answer may help to determine if you might be eligible for State grant(s).

Can I change my FAFSA answers? ›

On the “My FAFSA” page, select “Make Corrections.” Create a save key. Change your information. Submit your new information.

Where can I find my FAFSA PDF? ›

Go to the home page and click “Login.” 3. Log into the system. 4. Click on the “View or Print your SAR” option near the middle of the “My FAFSA” page, and choose to save as a PDF file.

What happens if you make a mistake on FAFSA? ›

If you find a mistake in your Student Aid Report (SAR), you'll need to correct or update your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. We're here to help. Call, email, or chat with a representative.

How do I find out about my Pell Grant history? ›

Most borrowers can log in to to see if they received a Pell Grant. We display information about the aid you received, including Pell Grants, on your account dashboard and your “My Aid” pages.

Am I screwed if I miss the FAFSA deadline? ›

Missing deadlines takes you out of the running for money you could get. Some states and colleges continue to award aid to FAFSA latecomers, but your chances get much slimmer, and the payout is often lower. If you miss the end-of-June federal deadline, you're no longer eligible to submit that year's FAFSA form.

Can you correct FAFSA twice? ›

You cannot edit the FAFSA between the period of submission and the time that the application process is complete.

What is the income limit for FAFSA 2023? ›

The FAFSA has no income limits, so you should fill this form out even if you think your family earns too much to qualify for federal aid.

What is the question 83 on the FAFSA? ›

How much did Parent 1 (father/mother/stepparent) earn from working in 2021? 84. How much did Parent 2 (father/mother/stepparent) earn from working in 2021?

Do I have to report my income on FAFSA? ›

The FAFSA requires parents and students to report income from two years prior to the school year for which financial aid is being requested. For example, if you plan to start college in the fall of 2023, you will provide income information from your 2021 tax return or W-2 tax form.

Should I put my parents info on FAFSA if I'm independent? ›

If you're a dependent student, you will report your and your parents' information. If you're an independent student, you will report your own information (and, if you're married, your spouse's).

Does FAFSA ask about expenses? ›

The FAFSA form does not specifically ask about medical expenses. However, after submitting the FAFSA, you can request an adjustment to your financial aid package from each school.

Why did I not get a Pell Grant? ›

It's possible that you might not receive your entire scheduled award for an award year. There are a number of reasons for this, the most common of which are that you are not enrolled for the full year or that you are not enrolled full-time, or both.

What is the maximum Pell Grant? ›

You may want to install the RSS Feed Reader for easier viewing of the feed.) The maximum Federal Pell Grant for 2023–24 (July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024) will be $7,395. The amount an individual student may receive depends on a number of factors.

What is the lifetime Pell Grant limit? ›

You can receive the Pell Grant for no more than 12 terms or the equivalent (roughly six years). This is called the Federal Pell Grant Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU).


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