FAFSA FAQs

WHAT IS THE FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the gateway to receiving the Pell Grant (up to $6195 for the 2019-2020 school year), work-study, and student loans. Schools use the information from the FAFSA to award need-based grants. Because many grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it is important to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible every year.

Application Opens Application Closes*
2019-2020 10/1/2018 6/30/2020
2020-2021 10/1/2019 6/30/2021

* Visit https://studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/fafsa-deadlines to find your state’s FAFSA deadline.

WHY SHOULD I COMPLETE THE FAFSA?

  • All of your financial aid, including ETV, the Pell Grant, need-based grants, and loans, are based on your FAFSA.
  • It’s easy. It takes most students 30-45 minutes.
  • Most financial aid is first-come, first-serve. You want to be at the head of the line, so do it now!

HOW DO I COMPLETE THE FAFSA?

Step 1: Create an FSA ID.

You must have an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA. The FSA ID is unique user name and password that will let you to access your FAFSA form online. It also allows you do see other federal student aid information such as your loan balance and repayment schedule, should you have one.

Creating an FSA ID is quick and easy – visit https://fsaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm. Once you have created your ID keep the information somewhere safe, because you will need to use it again.

Step 2: Gather your information.

You will need your…

  • Social security or alien registration number.
  • 2017 tax return (not your biological or foster parents’) if you completed one.
  • A recent bank statement if you have one.
  • Foster care verification document – Ask your caseworker or agency for a letter verifying your foster care involvement for financial aid. This letter should include your dates in care and any resources you receive because you were in care.
  • Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID.

Step 3: Complete the FAFSA form

Go to www.fafsa.ed.gov and log in using your FSA ID.  You will be prompted to start a new application or revise a current one. Select the school year you are applying for, either 2019-2020 or 2020-2021.  After that, follow the directions.

WHY DO I NEED TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT MY INCOME?

If you worked during 2017, you will need to provide that information on your FAFSA. Your income is used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

What if I didn’t file a federal tax return in 2017?

  • If you answer “I’m not going to file.” to Question 32, you are skipped ahead to question 39.
  • Question 39 – Answer with the amount you remember earning in 2017. If you earned over $12.000 as a single, independent student, you would have had to file a federal tax return.
  • Question 40 – Answer with information for your spouse, if you were married in 2017.
  • Questions 41-43 – These must be answered with information that is true for the day on which you complete the FAFSA.
  • If you filed a tax return, you will provide that information using the IRS Data Retrial Tool (IRS DRT).

WHAT IS AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT?

As a foster youth, you are considered an Independent Student. This means that you do not have to submit your parents’ (or foster parents’) tax return and that your eligibility for financial aid is not based on their income. As a foster youth, your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) is generally ZERO, unless you (and your spouse, if you have one) have an income of over $26,000 a year.

HOW DO I PROVE THAT I’M AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT?

On the FAFSA, questions 46-58 ask about your status. You need only one YES answer to qualify as independent. For most of our students, this is question 53, “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?”

Ask your caseworker or agency to provide you with a Foster Care Letter, which should state the dates and jurisdiction of your time in care and may list the programs (ETV, independent living services, etc.) for which you are eligible.

WHAT IS THE IRS DATA RETRIEVAL TOOL (DRT)?

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) electronically transfers your federal tax return information into your FAFSA Form. This is the best way to make sure your information is correct. If you use the IRS DRT and your FAFSA is selected for verification, you will NOT need to provide your school with a physical copy of your tax return.

If you use the IRS DRT, do NOT change any of the uploaded information or it will flag you for verification and you will have to provide a physical copy of your tax return to your school.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO USE THE IRS DATA RETRIEVAL TOOL?

  • Must have a valid Social Security number
  • Must have a FSA ID
  • Cannot file as married filing separately
  • Cannot file as Head of Household
  • Cannot have a change in marital status after the end of the tax year
  • Cannot file a Puerto Rican or foreign income tax return instead of or in addition to the U.S. federal income tax return

HOW DO I USE THE IRS DRT?

  1. Log in to your current FAFSA form or start a new application at fafsa.gov.
  2. In the finances section of the online form, you will see a “Link to IRS” button if you are eligible to use the IRS DRT.
  3. Click the “Link to IRS” button and log in with your FSA ID to be transferred to the IRS to retrieve your info.
  4. Once at the IRS site, enter your information exactly as it appears on your federal income tax return and click the “Submit” button.
  5. Check the “Transfer My Tax Information into the FAFSA form” box, and click the “Transfer Now” button.
  6. You will know that your federal tax return information has been successfully transferred because the words “Transferred from the IRS” will display in place of the IRS information in your FAFSA form.

If you need help using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool please visit your school’s financial aid office.

WHAT IF MY INCOME HAS CHANGED SIGNIFICANTLY SINCE 2017?

Once you have submitted your FAFSA, you can talk to your financial aid office and they can assess your situation and make adjustments.

I COMPLETED MY FAFSA, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

After you submit your FAFSA form online, you can check your status on fafsa.gov immediately using your FSA ID and password. In three to five days, you will receive instructions on how to view your Student Aid Report in an email from FederalStudentAidFAFSA@cpsemail.ed.gov.

The Student Aid Report (SAR)

The SAR is a summary of the information in the FAFSA and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). As a foster or former foster youth, your EFC will probably be ZERO.

Your school uses the SAR to determine your eligibility for financial aid. Make sure the information in your SAR is correct. If it is not, go back to www.fafsa.gov, log in with your FSA ID, and make the necessary changes.

WHAT IS VERIFICATION?

Verification is the process used to confirm that the data reported on your FAFSA is correct. If you are selected for verification, it is not personal. One-third of all FAFSAs are selected for verification by the Department of Education. If you are selected for verification, you cannot receive any federal aid or other need-based aid until they you completed the verification process

WILL MY SCHOOL TELL ME IF MY FAFSA HAS BEEN SELECTED FOR VERIFICATION?

Your school’s financial aid office will contact you to request further information. Be sure to check your school email every day for this and any other important notices they may send you.

WHAT DO I DO IF I’VE BEEN SELECTED FOR VERIFICATION?

  • Visit your financial aid office right away – the sooner you’re verified, the sooner your financial aid package can be finalized.
  •  If you are asked to provide proof that you were in foster care, you can use a letter from your caseworker or agency.
  • If you are unable to use the IRS DRT, you can order a paper copy of your tax transcript from the IRS. A tax transcript will provide an overview of your income tax information. There is no cost for the transcript. You may order a tax transcript in one of the three following ways:
  1. Request the tax transcript online at www.IRS.gov and clicking on Get Your Tax Record.
  2. Call 1-800-829-1040 to order a transcript by phone.
  3. Fill out and mail form 4506-T found online at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506t.pdf.

If you request the tax return transcript online, you will be able to view, print or download your tax transcript immediately. If you order by phone, you should receive your tax return transcript within 5 to 10 days. If you order by mail, allow 30 calendar days for delivery.

WHAT IS MY FINANCIAL AID PACKAGE?

Your financial aid package is the combination of all grants and scholarships you receive, along with all loans you are offered. The total amount is based on your school’s Cost of Attendance (COA) and your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC).

Review your financial aid package carefully. If you have questions, visit your financial aid office or make an appointment to speak with your ETV coordinator.

WHAT IS COST OF ATTENDANCE?

Cost of Attendance is the total estimated cost of attending your college, including tuition, fees, books and supplies, and room and board.

WHAT FORMS OF AID ARE AVAILABLE?

Grants – Money you don’t have to pay back
Work-study? – Money you earn by working an on-campus job
Loan? – Money you have to pay back after you leave school

You can learn more about different types of aid https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types

Just because you are offered loans does not mean you have to accept them. In many instances Pell, the Education and Training Voucher (ETV), other scholarships, and/or state or county resources may be enough to support a student with a realistic personal budget. Again, your ETV coordinator is very happy to discuss this with you.

In summary –

  • Complete your FAFSA as soon as possible every year.
  • If appropriate, use the IRS DRT to upload your tax information.
  • Get a foster care letter from your caseworker or agency and keep it with your important papers – just in case.
  • Review your SAR as soon as you get it.
  • If you are selected for verification, visit your financial aid office IMMEDIATELY and take the steps they require.
  • Review your financial aid package, with your ETV coordinator, financial aid officer, foster parent or other trusted adult, and accept your grants and loans responsibly.