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

1. Collect Documents
2. Get a FSA ID
3. Complete the FAFSA
4. Receive a Student Aid Report (SAR)
5. Complete an Entrance Counseling (for first-time borrowers)
6. Verify Your Data (only if requested by the federal government)
7. The Master Promissory Note (MPN) (for first-time borrowers)
8. 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 or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

How soon after October 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 file your FAFSA as soon as possible. 

2. Get a FSA ID

Students should apply for a FSA ID. With your FSA ID, 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.

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 October 1 prior to the academic year you plan on attending. Apply online by going to or downloading the myStudentAid app.

Use the correct school code. All Graduate Center and Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY 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

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 October 1, but not before this date. Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1. 

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 you can get online instructions for each question, and you can chat live online with a customer service representative.
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 October 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 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. Entrance Counseling (for first-time borrowers)

Those who are first-time borrowers or who borrowed more than five years ago must complete entrance counseling at

• Sign on to ( and click on Student Loan Borrowers, then click on Complete Online Counseling.
• First-time Grad PLUS borrowers must complete graduate entrance counseling, before loan proceeds will be disbursed.
• Read all the loan information page by page.
• Take the quiz (applicants must pass).


6. 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, 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.

7. 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 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.

8. 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 CUNYfirst.  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. 

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.

Receive your Funds

There are several options in place to assist you in receiving any federal aid funds owed to you. You can learn more about these options by visiting Financial Aid Refunds