Applying for Federal Aid

 

Applying for Federal Aid

When applying for federal aid, please follow the following steps below:

1. Collect Documents
2. Get a PIN
3. Complete the FAFSA
4. Receive a Student Aid Report (SAR)
5. Complete your GC Direct Loan Application
6. Complete an Entrance Interview (for first-time borrowers)
7. Verify Your Data (only if requested by the federal government)
8. The Master Promissory Note (MPN) (for first-time borrowers)
9. Accept Your Award (not applicable to federal student loan awards)

1. Collect Documents

Collect 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).

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, 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.

2. Get a PIN

Students should apply for a federal student aid PIN. With your PIN, 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 will each need a PIN. You can apply for a PIN at www.pin.ed.gov. You will use the same PIN to reapply and to access your student aid records each year.

How and when do I get a PIN?

Go to www.pin.ed.gov at any time, you don't have to wait until you apply for federal student aid. You can request your PIN before you complete your FAFSA on the Web application.

If you're a dependent student your parents should request a PIN also, so you and your parent can electronically sign your FAFSA on the Web before it's submitted.

How will my PIN be sent to me?

It depends. You will select your own delivery method when you submit your request on the PIN site, or while completing a FAFSA on the Web application. Your options include:

1. Select your own PIN (this option only appears when you apply for a new PIN or request to change your PIN).
 2. Instantly view your PIN online.
 3. Receive an email with your PIN immediately. This email will contain a link to the U.S. Department of Educations secure PIN delivery Web site where you will be able to input your personal data and retrieve your PIN online.

I lost my PIN. What should I do?

If you have lost or forgotten your PIN, you will need to request that it be sent to you again. If you think that someone else may know your PIN, or you believe your PIN may have been compromised when it was lost, a new PIN can be generated for you. Go to www.pin.ed.gov for instructions on replacing a lost PIN or to request a duplicate of your PIN.

3. Complete the FAFSA

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.

Use the correct school code. All Graduate Center and Graduate School of Journalism students should use 004765 even if their program is housed at another campus.

For free help in completing your FAFSA or to obtain a paper FAFSA you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-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 to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA.  Students 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.

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.FederalStudentAid.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.

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.

I probably don't qualify for aid. Should I apply for aid anyway?

Yes. Many families mistakenly think they don't qualify for aid and prevent themselves from receiving financial aid by failing to apply for it. In addition, there are a few sources of aid such as unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans that are available regardless of need. The FAFSA form is free. There is no excuse for not applying.

How could I check the status of my FAFSA application?

At any point during the processing period, you can use your PIN to check the status of your FAFSA or to check on a correction you made to your FAFSA.  Checking the status of your application at any time during the processing period is beneficial, but it is recommended that you check at least 3 to 5 days after submission, if you used a PIN to sign your application and 2-3 weeks after submission if you mailed in a signature page.

4. Receive a Student Aid Report (SAR)

A few days after you complete the FAFSA you will receive an email from 'Federal Student Aid' with a link to your 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 Federal Student PIN.

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 with your PIN 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, you can make them online. 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).

5. Complete Your GC Direct Loan Application

In addition to completing your FASFA, you must also complete a Federal Direct Loan Application with the Graduate Center. All questions must be answered or processing may be delayed.

A DRN# (question 8) must be indicated before the loan request will be processed.  This number will appear on the first page of your Student Aid Report (SAR) and must be indicated on this form before any loan will be processed.

Return this form to the Office of Financial Aid via mail, email, fax, or in person to:

Financial Aid Office
365 Fifth Avenue, Rm 7201
New York, NY 10016
fax: 212-817-1623
email: financialaid@gc.cuny.edu

6. Entrance Interview (for first-time borrowers)

Those who are first-time borrowers or who borrowed more than five years ago must schedule a pre-loan interview with the Office of Financial Aid or complete an online interview at www.studentloans.gov.

The interview may be completed in one of two ways:

1. Contact the Financial Aid Office 1.212.817.7460 and schedule an entrance interview appointment, or
2. Complete the Entrance Interview on the web.
• Sign on to StudentLoans.gov (www.studentloans.gov) and click on Student Loan Borrowers, then click on Complete Online Counseling.
• First-time Grad PLUS borrowers must complete a combination Stafford and Plus Loan entrance interview, before loan proceeds will be disbursed.
• Read all the loan information page by page.
• Take the quiz (applicants must pass).
• The Graduate Center will not be notified electronically that you have taken and passed the entrance interview. Therefore, you must take a
screen shot of the confirmation page and submit it (via mail, email, fax, or in person) to the Financial Aid Office (financialaid@gc.cuny.edu).

7. Verify Your Data

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, click 'Order a Tax Return or Account Transcript' and follow the steps or call the IRS at 1-800-908-9946.

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 correctness 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.

8. The Master Promissory Note (MPN) (for first-time borrowers)

Once the loan request has been processed, applicants will receive a letter of instruction regarding:

(1) how to sign the Master Promissory Note (MPN) online.  See www.studentloans.gov. Signing online will shorten the time needed to get the loan funds to applicants;
(2) the processed loan amounts; and
(3) the anticipated disbursement dates.

If students do not sign their MPN online using their Federal PIN, they will receive a paper MPN in the mail. Students must complete the reference section, sign and date the MPN, and send in the MPN for the processing of their loan to be completed. Grad PLUS borrowers are required to sign a separate MPN.

Once the MPN is returned, students will receive Disclosure Notices which will indicate the approved gross loan amount(s), fees, net loan amounts, and antici pated disbursement dates. All loans are disbursed in at least two disbursements.

Students will be notified by email when their checks are available. Checks will be mailed or direct deposited. Direct deposit is highly recommended and is administered by the Bursar’s Office. (To ensure that mailed checks are received, mailing addresses must be updated with the Financial Aid Office and the Registrar’s Office.)

Those who have a Direct Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN) on file with the Federal Government are no longer required to complete a new promissory note for each new loan. Notes expire after ten years; when this happens you must sign a new MPN. However, previous borrowers will still receive disclosure notices listing the amounts of their loan(s) and the anticipated disbursement dates.

9. Accept Your Award

Once your FAFSA is complete and you demonstrate financial need, we will will send you an award notice indicating the financial aid programs for which you qualify. With the exception of federal loans, other award packages will need to be accepted on-line through Student Web.  You can also check in Student Web for required documents or holds that may delay your award.

Students will be notified by email when their checks are available. Checks will be mailed or direct deposited. Direct deposit is highly recommended and is administered by the Bursar’s Office. (To ensure that mailed checks are received, mailing addresses must be updated with the Financial Aid Office and the Registrar’s Office.)

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.

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.

Do I have to reapply?

Yes. Virtually, all financial aid funds require an application every year. The federal funds definitely require new applications with updated financial information. Many scholarships, even those based on merit, will require some type of reapplication for subsequent years.