Applying for Federal Aid

Federal aid is awarded directly through the Office of Fellowships and Financial Aid in accordance with requirements established by federal law. Applicants must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online by the priority deadline of April 30 to be considered for federal loans or federal work study.

The federal school code for the Graduate Center is 004765.

How to Apply for Federal Aid

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

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 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)

With your FSA ID, you can “sign” your FAFSA electronically and complete the federal student aid process completely online. You can also make corrections to your application once it is filed and access your information online.

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 (for example, if you are applying to attend CUNY in the fall of 2021, you can start your FAFSA application after October 1, 2020).

Apply online or download the myStudentAid app.

Make sure you are using 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 completing your FAFSA — or if you need to obtain a paper FAFSA — call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1800-433-3243).

IRS Data Retrieval Tool

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows you to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA. (You can transfer the data directly into your FAFSA.) It becomes available 1-2 weeks after you file your income tax return electronically. If you are eligible, we highly recommended using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool for several reasons:

  • It's the easiest way of providing 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, provided you do not make changes to the information imported from the IRS.

Note: Filling out and submitting your FAFSA is free. Some 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 (800-433-3243).

A few days after you complete the FAFSA, you will receive an email from “Federal Student Aid” with a link to your Student Aid Report (SAR). You can also access your SAR at with your FSA ID.

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. The schools listed on your FAFSA will also appear on your SAR.

Review your SAR carefully 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.

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). After a correction is processed, the Department of Education will automatically send each school listed an updated FAFSA.

The U.S. Department of Education selects a certain number of applicants for a verification process to determine the accuracy of information submitted through the FAFSA.

Being selected for verification does not necessarily mean that you made an error in filling out your FAFSA, but you will need to provide appropriate documentation to verify your information in order to receive financial aid that you have been awarded.

If your application needs to be verified, you will have comments on your Student Aid Report (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.

Required documentation will include IRS Tax Return Transcript(s) and a completed Verification Worksheet.
To order a Tax Return Transcript, you can do one of the following:

  • Go to, click "Order a Tax Return" or "Account Transcript", and follow the steps
  • Call the IRS at 1-800-908-9946
  • Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool that is part of the online FAFSA (See "Complete the FAFSA" above for more.)

Once your FAFSA is complete and you demonstrate financial need, we will send you an award notice indicating the financial aid programs for which you qualify. All financial aid awards will need to be accepted online through CUNYfirst. You can also check your “to-do” list for required documents or holds that may delay your award.

Financial aid will first be applied to any outstanding tuition or fee balance for the semester. Any remaining funds will be refunded to you for living expenses. Refunds will be either direct deposited or mailed to you. Direct deposit is highly recommended, which you can sign up for through CUNYfirst.

Please note: If you have signed up for direct deposit with the Payroll Office, it will not apply to your financial aid. Financial aid has a separate direct deposit process. If you do not sign up for direct deposit, refunds will be mailed to your mailing address listed in CUNYfirst.

If you are not eligible for need-based financial aid, you can contact the financial aid office at your college to explore other options for financing your education.

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 Direct PLUS borrowers must complete graduate entrance counseling before loan proceeds will be disbursed
  • Read all the loan information page by page
  • Pass the quiz

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

If you do not sign your MPN online using your FSA ID, your will receive a paper MPN in the mail. Complete the reference section, sign and date the MPN, and send in the MPN to ensure your loan is processed. Direct PLUS borrowers are required to sign a separate MPN.

Once the MPN is returned, you will receive disclosure notices which indicate the approved gross loan amount(s), fees, net loan amounts, and anticipated disbursement dates. All loans are disbursed in at least two disbursements.

If you have a MPN on file with the federal government, you are no longer required to complete a new promissory note for each new loan. Notes expire after 10 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.


Federal Student Aid outlines the basic eligibility requirements in detail:

  • Demonstrate financial need (for most programs)
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen
  • Have a valid Social Security number (with the exception of students from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau)
  • Be registered with Selective Service, if you’re a male (you must register between the ages of 18 and 25)
  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program
  • Be enrolled at least half time to be eligible for Direct Loan Program funds
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school
  • Sign the certification statement on FAFSA form stating that:
    • You are not in default on a federal student loan
    • You do not owe money on a federal student grant
    • You will use federal student aid only for educational purposes
  • Show you’re qualified to obtain a college or career school education through one of the following:
    • Having a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent, such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate
    • Completing a high school education in a homeschool setting approved under state law (or — if state law does not require a homeschooled student to obtain a completion credential — completing a high school education in a homeschool setting that qualifies as an exemption from compulsory attendance requirements under state law)
    • Enrolling in an eligible career pathway program and meeting one of the "ability-to-benefit" alternatives described on the website

Most students, with the exception of international students, are eligible to receive financial aid from the federal government to help pay for graduate school. A student’s age, race, or field of study won’t affect their eligibility for federal student aid. While income is taken into consideration, it does not automatically prevent a student from getting federal student aid.

In order to be eligible for federal student aid, a student must be registered at least half time (six credits/WIUs). Courses taken as a non-matriculated student and/or audited courses do not count toward a student’s eligibility to receive federal student aid.


Students with criminal convictions for crimes related to controlled substances may not be eligible for federal financial aid.

Review Federal Student Aid’s policy on drug convictions.

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 (interest begins accruing upon disbursement) Direct and Graduate PLUS loans, that are available regardless of need. The FAFSA form is free. There is no excuse for not applying.

No. You can apply for financial aid any time after October 1 of the year prior to your enrollment. To actually receive funds, however, you must be admitted and enrolled at CUNY.

You can apply for financial aid even before you've been accepted to a college. Most applicants follow this guideline:

  • Fall: Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 of the year before you plan to enroll.
  • Spring: Apply before November so that your financial aid application is processed before you begin classes

At CUNY, the first financial aid awards are sent in early April, so we recommend you file your FAFSA as soon as possible.

The FAFSA becomes available on October 1st of the year before you plan to enroll. It will use tax information from the year before that, better known as “prior-prior” tax information.

No. If you apply via, you can get instructions for each question, and you can chat live online with a customer service representative.

Whether you apply online or through the paper FAFSA, you can also call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) with questions about the application process or general federal student financial aid. You can also visit the financial aid office at your CUNY campus for help.

At any point during the processing period, you can use your Federal Student ID to check the status of your FAFSA or to check on a correction you made to your FAFSA.

Yes. All federal aid programs require a new FAFSA application every year. Many scholarships, even those based on merit, will require some type of reapplication for subsequent years. The FAFSA can be filed online at

You must be making satisfactory progress toward the degree to maintain your status at the Graduate Center and remain eligible for any student financial assistance.

In general, a doctoral student is deemed not to be making satisfactory progress if they have:

  • A grade point average below 3.00
  • Accumulated more than two open grades (INC, INP, NGR, ABS, and ABP)
  • Completed more than 45 credits without having passed the First Examination
  • Completed 10 semesters without having passed the Second Examination
  • Received two NRP grades in succession
  • Exceeded the time limit for the degree (specific programs may have rules that differ)

Please refer to the sections on “Incomplete Grades,” “Standards for Retention,” “Computation of Grade Point Average,” and “Time Limits for Degrees,” which appear in the Student Handbook's section on “Academic Policies and Procedures” on pages 55 through 57.

The Graduate Center reviews each student's record every semester. If formal standards have not been met, a student may register (and receive financial aid, if otherwise eligible) only upon petition of the student's Executive Officer to the Vice President for Student Affairs. Students whose petitions are approved are considered to be making satisfactory progress toward the degree and are eligible to receive financial aid.

All Federal Aid funds are sent to the school. If you have a balance with the Bursar, the balance will be deducted from the amount of your award. Any remaining funds will be direct deposited into your bank account or mailed to you.

Aid checks can be received by:

  1. Direct deposit (sign-up must be completed on CUNYfirst)
  2. A check will be mailed to the address listed in CUNYfirst

We highly recommend that students sign up for direct deposit. If you do not select that option, please ensure that your mailing address in CUNYfirst is correct.

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Online resources for federal aid

On the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website you can apply for aid, complete counseling or Master Promissory Notes, view your outstanding federal loan balance, estimate what your payments will look like in repayment, and for general information on the federal aid process.

Visit the Federal Student Aid website