Frequently Asked Questions about the FAFSA

Please note: the FAFSA and other aid applications are FREE

Penn College strongly recommends against using any service that charges a fee to complete the FAFSA or a scholarship application. If you need any assistance, contact the Penn College Financial Aid Office.

What is the FAFSA?

It's the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the first step in the financial aid application process. The FAFSA should be submitted for every academic year that you will be enrolled. The Financial Aid Office recommends that you complete your FAFSA between February 1 and April 15, and 2-3 weeks after your family has electronically submitted their federal income taxes so that you can take advantage of the time-saving IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Complete and submit your FAFSA early in the year, even if you're not sure you will start college during the fall semester. Penn College's FAFSA Priority submission deadline is April 15.

How do I Submit my FAFSA?

You use FAFSA on the Web. This online process is fast and secure and is designed to prevent common errors applicants make.

I submitted a FAFSA last year. Is there a way to transfer some of my FAFSA information from that FAFSA to this year's FAFSA?

Yes! Just like you did last year, you begin this year's FAFSA from the FAFSA site. After answering several preliminary questions, you will be given the option to pre-fill data from last year's FAFSA. Financial information will not be pre-filled.

Do I need a Federal PIN to submit the FAFSA online?

Yes, you need a Federal PIN to submit your FAFSA. You can request your PIN at anytime, even before you apply to Penn College. One parent of a dependent student will also need to request a Federal PIN. You (and a parent) can now create your own PIN and use during the process of completing and submitting your FAFSA.

Note: during the spring of 2015, the U.S. Department of Education will replace the PIN with a FSA ID.

Do I need to activate my Federal PIN?

If you applied for a Federal PIN and provided a response to a Challenge Question, your PIN should have been automatically activated. If you believe that your PIN needs to be activated, visit the PIN site to activate.

Do I need to provide my parent's information on the FAFSA?

Federal regulations require that if you truthfully answer “NO” to ALL of the following questions for the 2014-15 FAFSA (note that some of the questions are different from previous years), you are considered a dependent student and your parent(s) information must be included on your FAFSA:

  • Were you born before January 1, 1991?
  • Are you working on a graduate or doctorate program? (Penn College doesn't have these programs.)
  • As of today (the day you sign your FAFSA), are you married?
  • Do you have children who will receive more than half of their (financial) support from you between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015?
  • Do you have dependents other than your children or spouse who live with you and who receive more than half of their (financial) support from you, now and through June 30, 2015?
  • Are (a) both of your parents deceased, or (b) at any time since you turned age 13, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
  • Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
  • Other questions regarding special circumstances that can be documented such as legal guardianship, homelessness, etc. Contact the Financial Aid Office for more information or to learn how a 'veteran' is defined..

If you truthfully answer “YES” to any of those questions, you are considered an independent student and you do NOT need to include parent(s) information.

The FAFSA provides information for dependent students about how to determine parental information that is required on your FAFSA.

Note: parents are not required to contribute toward their son's or daughter's educational expenses even if their financial and other information must be included on their student's FAFSA.

If my parents are divorced or separated and living apart, whose information goes on the FAFSA?

From the FAFSA instructions: "If your parents are divorced or separated answer the questions about the parent you lived with more during the past 12 months. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent year that you actually received support from a parent. If this parent has remarried as of today (the date you fill out the FAFSA), answer the questions (on the remaining sections of the FAFSA) about that parent and your stepparent (the person he or she married)."

Note: if your legal (biological or adoptive) parents are not married yet they live together, both parents' information goes on the FAFSA.
View information from the FAFSA about "Who is considered a parent?"

I live with my grandparents. How do I fill out the FAFSA? Do I use their income?

Dependent students do not provide their grandparents' income information on the FAFSA, unless they have legally adopted you and (1) one or both of your biological parents are alive, and (2) you were not in foster care or a dependent/ward of the court at anytime since your 13th birthday. You do report income and assets from your parent(s), regardless of whom you live with. Recall that the FAFSA requires student and parent information for dependent students. Because this topic is often confusing, it's best to contact the Financial Aid Office for more details.

Are 529 Plans and other College Savings Plans reported as investments?

The current value or refund value of a 529 (or other type of) college savings plan, including a state prepaid tuition plan, is reported as an investment of parents on the FAFSA if parents or a dependent student owns the plan. However, if an independent student (or spouse) owns his or her 529 (or other type of) college savings plan, the current or refund value is reported as an asset of the student.

Note: if the owner is someone other than a student or a parent included on a dependent student's FAFSA, distributions from any college savings plan are treated as student's untaxed income, in the form of 'money received on your (student's) behalf'.

When I applied for financial aid, I was living with my parents and was a dependent student. I am getting married in the next few months. Will this change my financial aid dependency status?

Marriage after the FAFSA has been submitted will not affect your dependency status for that school year. You can not change your answer to the marital status question for the academic year. If you are married when you complete the FAFSA for the next academic year, you will be an independent student.

What does EFC mean?

EFC means Expected Family Contribution in dollars. You and (if you're a dependent student) your parents are expected to pay a certain amount of your cost of education. The EFC is calculated by the U.S. Department of Education. It is based on the amount of taxed income, untaxed income, and assets you and your parents have; your family size; and the number of college students in your family. The EFC is used to consider eligibility for certain types of financial aid, but it does not mean that grants will make up any difference between your cost of education and your EFC. Sometime, families can not afford the EFC. In those cases, educational loans can be helpful in meeting college costs.

What is a SAR?

SAR means Student Aid Report. It's your copy of the data you (and your parents) provided on your FAFSA. After your FAFSA is processed by the U.S. Department of Education, you can access your SAR from the FAFSA site.

I just reviewed my SAR and it states that my EFC is 9350. I don't understand where that figure came from. Where do I get that kind of money?

As explained in this question, your EFC is calculated from your FAFSA information. If your family does not have sufficient assets to cover your EFC, you should consider loans.

What does the FAFSA question about ‘legal guardianship’ mean?

 The FAFSA question you refer to asks “As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship?” The definition of legal guardianship does not include your parents, even if they were appointed by a court to be your guardian.

Because this question is often answered incorrectly, we contact all students who answer ‘Yes’ to this question. In many cases, students will need to change their answer to ‘No’ by making a correction on their FAFSA, which will then prompt them to answer other FAFSA questions.

If you think you answered this question correctly as ‘Yes’, we do require a copy of a court decision before we will process any federal aid. Note that the court decision must contain the word ‘guardianship’. Many court decisions refer to ‘custody’ and not ‘guardianship’ and therefore do not meet the criteria to answer ‘Yes’ to this question. More information from FAFSA Help. Contact us with any questions.

I already submitted the FAFSA for another college. Now I have decided to attend Penn College. Do I submit another FAFSA?

No, do not complete another FAFSA. You need to add our Federal School Code, 003395, to your FAFSA, preferably as the first 'school to receive your results' on your list. If you are unable to do so, contact us or provide our office with a copy of your SAR.

If I only want to use loan funds to pay for my Penn College education, do I need to file the FAFSA?

Yes, all students who will receive funding from Federal Direct Stafford or PLUS Loans must complete the FAFSA. Some private alternative loan programs also require the FAFSA to be completed. We highly recommend that you have a current FAFSA on file every academic year so that the College can consider you for all possible aid, including Penn College scholarships. In case you are only applying for a private alternative loan and do not want to submit a FAFSA, please contact us.

What does Federal Verification mean?

Federal Verification of your FAFSA information means that the College must compare your family's federal tax return transcripts (unless you agreed to download your IRS information via the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when completing your FAFSA and you did not subsequently change that IRS information) and other documents to information reported on your FAFSA. The federal government chooses about 33% of all FAFSAs for Verification. Incomplete or conflicting information on your FAFSA may lead to Verification; however, many FAFSAs are chosen at random. Federal aid and some other types of aid cannot be credited to your account before the Verification process is complete, so be sure to respond quickly to any requests for more information.

Where can I get a copy of my federal tax return transcripts or W-2 form?

View our Web page to learn how to request a tax return transcript from the IRS. Check with your employer(s) if you need a duplicate copy of your W-2 forms.

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