Financial Aid Basics

Financial aid all starts with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more commonly known as the FAFSA. The application automatically applies students for four federal and one state grant: the Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, Teach Grant, and Oregon Opportunity Grant.  The FAFSA is also often used to award any grants from individual colleges or universities. But wait, there’s more! The FAFSA is also required for students that would like to apply for optional student loans, and the FAFSA opens doors to other types of funds and grants like Chafee and Oregon Promise, student employment and scholarships.Students who do not have social security numbers are not able to complete a FAFSA; however, they can complete an ORSAA (Oregon Student Aid Application) and may be eligible to receive an Oregon Opportunity Grant.  

How it works

Both the FAFSA and ORSAA determine how much grant money (if any) a student is eligible for based on the students’ household size, number of people attending college, and tax information from two years prior. Many students also have to include financial information from their parents if they do not meet the independent requirements.  

5 FAFSA Tips: 

1) Apply Early:  FAFSA for the next year always opens on October 1. For example, the 2020-2021 FAFSA opened October 1, 2019, a full 9 months before the school year started. Applying early ensures that your application is considered for limited grant funding. For example, at Rogue Community College, this could mean an additional $3,100 for students. Plus, you’ll just have one less thing on your plate!

2) The FAFSA Login is called a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID). This login is used every year to reapply for financial aid as well as log into other student aid sites such as studentaid.gov and the National Student Loan Database. If parent information is required in the FAFSA, a parent will also need an FSA ID login. Warning: the FAFSA is always free to file, so beware of any service that charges you to fill it out.

3) Be prepared: the FAFSA is going to ask a lot of information, such Social Security Numbers, birth dates, marriage/separation dates, and for federal tax information. Having that information ready will ensure a smooth application. Before getting started, collect the following and have it ready:

  • Student’s FSA ID (a dependent student and their parent should each have their own FSA ID) 
  • Student’s federal tax info
  • Student’s W2s from each job worked that year

A dependent student (under age 24, unmarried, no kids, not homeless youth, not veteran) will also need:

  • Parent’s FSA ID
  • Parent’s federal tax info (including tax filing status)
  • Parent’s W2s from each job worked that year
  • Parent’s full name, date of birth, social security #, legal marital status
  • Parent’s household size

4) Link your tax information in the FAFSA: students can transfer their tax information automatically to their FAFSA by using the IRS data link. When prompted to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) to import tax data, know that it’s safe and secure. Financial aid offices prefer this as they are able to see that the IRS provided the information rather than relying on the accuracy of a student self-reporting tax information. You may need to refer to your taxes for some questions, so having your federal taxes available will be helpful. 

5) Learn about the estimated family contribution (EFC). This is what financial aid offices use to determine how much grant money and types of loans students are eligible for, as well as determining certain financial need-based scholarships. In a nutshell, the FAFSA uses a formula that you can look at in order to be prepared. 

Have questions? Reach out! The FAFSA can be confusing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are many people that can help High School College Advocates, College Financial Aid Offices or the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4FED-AID.  

There's an app for that! The FAFSA  app is the EASIEST way to sign up for Federal Aid. You can find the app in your device’s app store.  

 FAFSA App Icon

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