Financial Aid Process
- What Is Financial Aid?
- Where Does Financial Aid Come From?
- How to Apply for Financial Aid
- What Happens Next?
Financial aid is money available to assist students with costs of attending college. There are four forms of financial aid:
Scholarships are awarded to students based on an applicant's academic achievement or other criteria; financial need is sometimes taken into account. Scholarships do not require repayment.
Loans may be offered to students and parents at low interest rates. Loans are considered a form of financial aid and must be repaid. In most cases, repayment of student loans does not begin until after graduation or the student leaves school.
Work Study employment may be offered to students. Work-study is awarded based on need and will provide the opportunity for employment during the academic year. This work is part-time, and often limited to a specific number of hours per week. Students who are not awarded work-study may seek other on-campus employment.
The federal government is the largest source of financial aid. As a result, it is likely federal funds will be a part of a student's future in higher education. The United States Department of Education publishes the Guide to Federal Student Aid , which gives an overview of the various programs at the federal level.
There are a number of other resources for financial aid in the publication Student Aid, which lists programs from a variety of different sources that are not as familiar to most students.
The university or college a student plans to attend may also have institutional grants or scholarships. Students are encouraged to contact their financial aid office and inquire about opportunities that exist with their university or college.
There are various private sources of financial aid. Families are encouraged to pursue possible funding from local organizations, employers, foundations, and corporations.
All students seeking financial aid (including loans) must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is usually available from high school guidance offices, libraries, and university financial aid offices in mid-December.
The fastest way to apply for financial aid is through FAFSA.
Students who applied for federal student aid using a FAFSA during the previous school year may file a Renewal Free Application for Federal Student Aid (Renewal FAFSA). These forms are mailed directly from the Department of Education or the student's financial aid office to the student.
Students should complete the FAFSA or the Renewal FAFSA and mail it to the processor as soon as possible after January 1 for the next academic year.
The FAFSA and the Renewal FASFA are used to determine eligibility for all federal student financial aid programs. In most cases, they are also used to apply for state and institutional financial aid. The data from the FAFSA is used to calculate an Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) toward college expenses. An interactive form on the Web gives students and parents the opportunity to calculate a family's EFC.
Some universities or colleges may require students and parents to complete an institutional financial aid application, a form separate from the FAFSA that collects additional information not found on the FAFSA. Once completed, this form is sent directly to the university or college to which the student is applying, unlike the FAFSA.
For more information on financial aid and the financial aid process, students and parents should visit the Wisconsin Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. This site includes information about financial aid priority dates, Title IV Codes, and other institutional requirements for all Wisconsin colleges and universities.
It is also important to find out the college's financial aid priority date. The priority date is interpreted differently by individual campuses. However, in most cases it means the date by which your FAFSA should be filed or the date all materials must be at the Financial aid offices. It is important for students and parents to know the priority date and what is expected by that date.
About four to six weeks after a student mails a completed FAFSA, he or she will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is the confirmation of the information collected on the FAFSA. Students should double-check the SAR for data that was not entered correctly or for any mistakes. In most cases the student is not required to submit the SAR to the university or college. However, it is recommended that the student contact the university or college to which he or she has applied to make sure that the institution doesn't require the student to submit the SAR.
At the same time the student receives the SAR, the processor sends a report to all universities or colleges that were designated on the FAFSA. Colleges and universities are designated in section H of the FAFSA by using a 6-digit code called the Title IV code. It is very important to use the Title IV institution code when filling out the FAFSA. The FAFSA is processed faster and more accurately if students and parents use Title IV codes.
Beginning in the spring, students will receive an award letter from the financial aid office. The award letter provides details on a student's financial aid package. The financial aid package will be for one academic year and lists each source of aid and the amount. Remember, it is the student's responsibility to read and understand all of the information in the award letter. Students need to ask questions if the information is difficult to understand. The UW Financial Aid Offices are great sources.