Financial Aid FAQs

The following is a list of frequently asked questions concerning financial aid. For answers to general questions about financial aid, contact UW HELP or a financial aid office.

How can I tell if my family is eligible for financial aid?

The only way to tell if you are eligible for financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Sometimes families never complete the FAFSA only to find out later they would have qualified. Furthermore, there are some types of loan programs for which students qualify regardless of need.

Do I have to wait until I am admitted to apply for financial aid?

No. You may apply for financial aid anytime after January 1 preceding the academic year you plan to attend college.

Do I have to reapply for financial aid every year?

Yes. You are required to complete a FAFSA or the Renewal Free Application for Federal Student Aid (Renewal FAFSA) every year.

How long do I have to wait before I can expect to receive my Student Aid Report (SAR)?

If you sent in your FAFSA and have not received a SAR after four weeks, call the federal processor at (319) 337-5665.

My parents did not claim me on their tax returns this year and I am 18. Can I file my FAFSA as an independent student?

Probably not. To determine if you are independent or dependent, review the FAFSA. If you can answer yes to any question in Section D, you are considered independent for financial aid purposes. If you cannot answer yes to any of those questions, you are considered dependent for financial purposes. If you still feel that you are an independent student, contact the campus financial aid office to discuss your circumstances.

Should I use a scholarship search company to help me find money?

In general, avoid scholarship searches that charge a fee. Many times students are paying just for a list of possible scholarships, some of which may be either obsolete or impossible to locate. A list of free scholarship searches is available in the Paying for College section.

Is the money I receive from financial aid taxable?

UW HELP cannot give tax advice. Contact a tax preparer, accountant, or the IRS at (800) 829-1040.

What if something happens that changes my family's application information based on the most recent tax year, or my family has had unusual expenses in the last year?

Sometimes, due to special circumstances such as a family tragedy, divorce or separation, or loss of employment, the FAFSA does not reflect a family's real ability to contribute toward your educational expenses. If this is the case, contact the financial aid office and speak with a financial aid adviser.

What is the difference between an unsubsidized Stafford loan and a subsidized Stafford loan?

With a subsidized loan, the federal government is paying the interest on the loan while you are in college. If you receive an unsubsidized loan, the federal government does not pay the interest while you are in college.

With an unsubsidized loan you have two choices, either pay the interest or permit the loan to capitalize. Capitalization means the interest on the loan accrues while you are in school and is added to the loan principal. If possible, it is always best to pay the interest while in school rather than letting it capitalize. Using a capitalization calculator may give you an idea what it will really cost to capitalize the loan.

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