FAFSA FAQs

  • General
     
  • Eligibility/Citizenship/
    Registration Status
  • Family/Dependency
     
  • Financial/Tax Related
     
  • TAP
     

General

Can you start the FAFSA and save it in progress?
Yes, you can save the FAFSA for up to 45 days. When you begin your application, you will be prompted to create a save key. This save key is different from your Federal Student Aid ID. When you come back to complete the FAFSA, your save key will return you to your application.  

There is room to list four colleges on the paper FAFSA, but I'm applying to more. What should I do?
The online FAFSA has space for up to 10 schools. If you need to send it to more than 10 schools, wait until the FAFSA is processed and ready for updates. You can usually update the FAFSA within three to five days after you submit it. To make corrections, go to FAFSA.gov and log in with your FSA ID. Choose 'Make FAFSA Corrections,' and navigate directly to the 'School Selection' tab to edit your school list. You will need to delete some of the original colleges you listed before you can add new ones. Any schools you listed on a previous submission of the FAFSA will still have a copy of your form available to them.  

NOTE: If you make other corrections to your FAFSA later, the FAFSA processor will send the updated information to the 10 schools listed at the time the corrections are made. If you want the other colleges to receive your updated FAFSA, look for the Data Release Number (DRN) on the confirmation page and give that number to the financial aid office of the college that is not listed; they can get your updated information electronically.

We make too much money to qualify for a Pell Grant. Should we still file a FAFSA?
YES! To qualify for federal Stafford Loans, Parent PLUS Loans, federal work-study and state grants and scholarships, you will need to file a FAFSA. Many colleges require the FAFSA to qualify for institutional scholarships, grants or other aid they may have available. Institutional funds may not necessarily be based on need. Remember, you can’t qualify for financial aid if you don’t file.
I'm already attending college. Do I need to complete another FAFSA?
Yes. You must complete the FAFSA each year. If you receive a grant or scholarship from the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), a TAP application must be completed every academic year you wish to receive financial aid. A student applying for aid using FAFSA-on-the-Web will be able to link to the TAP-on-the-Web (TOTW) application through the FAFSA Confirmation page if they indicated they are a New York resident and listed at least one New York State school.  This process will be fast, since your FAFSA information will carry over to the TAP application.  If you exited the FAFSA before completing the TAP application, and you filled in your New York State address and a New York State school on the FAFSA, HESC will then send you an email or postcard with directions to complete the TAP application online.
I went to the website, FAFSA.application.com to complete the FAFSA, but they wanted me to pay. What gives?
That's one of many private services that assist and charge for filing FAFSA and host ancillary services. The first word in FAFSA is "Free." You don't have to pay anyone to complete the FAFSA – either on paper or online – and there is no secret formula to get additional student aid. The correct website for FAFSA FAFSA.gov.
Do I have to register with Selective Service?
Young men age 18 through 25 are required to register with the U.S. Selective Service in order to receive federal student aid, including Pell Grants, Federal Work-Study (FWS), and Stafford Loans. If you haven't registered, you can do it on the FAFSA. By checking "Register Me" box, you give the U.S. Department of Education permission to submit your information to Selective Service. Get more information about U.S. Selective Service at sss.gov.

Eligibility/Citizenship/Registration Status

What determines "eligible noncitizen status?"
Generally, you are an eligible noncitizen if you are one of the following:
  • U.S. permanent resident, with a Permanent Resident Card (formerly known as an Alien Registration Receipt Card or "Green Card")
  • Conditional permanent resident (I-551C)
  • Other eligible noncitizen with an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the Department of Homeland Security showing any one of the following designations: "Refugee," "Asylum Granted," "Indefinite Parole," "Humanitarian Parole," or "Cuban-Haitian Entrant"
  • Citizen of the Republic of Palau (PW), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (MH), or the Federated States of Micronesia (FM).

You can receive federal student aid if you are an eligible noncitizen. You must enter your eight or nine-digit Alien Registration Number (ARN) on the FAFSA.

Are students with Refugee or Asylum statuses considered Eligible Non-Citizens on the FAFSA? What if their Alien Registration number expires?
Federal Regulations define an eligible non-citizen as someone "able to provide evidence from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that he or she is in the U.S. for other than a temporary purpose with the intention of becoming a citizen or permanent resident." In other words, regulations require that the Department of Education rely upon the determination made by DHS. When a student files a FAFSA, an automatic check is run with DHS to determine whether they are a citizen or an eligible noncitizen. If the data match indicates that the student's information did not match with DHS, the college is then required to request documentation from the student to show his or her eligible status. Remember, a DHS-provided status can be revoked; therefore the results of a non-match must be appropriately resolved.
How do students who are citizens themselves but whose parents are undocumented complete the parent information on the FAFSA?
A dependent student whose parents are undocumented fills out the FAFSA the same as anyone else, with one exception: if the parents do not have Social Security Numbers (SSNs), the student should enter all zeros (e.g, 000000000) in the space for the parent SSNs. If the parents did not file taxes, they need to indicate as such on the FAFSA and answer the other income questions accordingly (how much earned from work, untaxed income, etc.). If the parents earned an income where they are required to file taxes, then they should do so before filing the FAFSA.
Can an undocumented or student in the DACA program complete the FAFSA?
Undocumented students and students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are not considered an "eligible noncitizen" for purposes of the FAFSA and will not qualify for any federal student aid programs.  These students should speak to the financial aid office at their prospective college to discuss options for financial assistance and the application process.
Is there a question on the FAFSA where a student can indicate the loss of a military parent in Iraq/Afghanistan post 9/11?
No, there is not a question about this. Instead, the Department of Education automatically checks a list of affected students provided by the Department of Defense (DOD). The Department of Education then contact those students. If you have lost a parent in this way, please contact your college's financial aid office.

Family/Dependency

My parents are separated/divorced – which parent's financial information should I include?
Include the financial information from your custodial parent - the parent with whom you lived the most during the past 12 months. If you live with both parents 50 percent of the time, then the parent who provided the most financial support should complete the parent portion of the FAFSA.
I am a step-parent. Do I need to provide my income information for my step-child, who lives with me and my spouse, on the FAFSA?
Yes, since your step-child is part of your household, your income must be reported.
My parents are getting divorced, how do I complete the FAFSA application?
You should file the FAFSA reporting the income and asset information of your custodial parent if your parents are separated pending divorce. If your parents are still living together at the time you are filing the FAFSA, then you are required to report both of their informtion regardless of their marital status.  You should notify the financial aid office if your parents finalize their divorce and start living separately after you have filed the FAFSA.
I am a high school student and a single mother living on my own. Should I seek independence so I can receive more aid or should I include my mother's information?
If you are a single parent who provides more than half of the financial support to your child, then you can be recognized as an independent student on the FAFSA. If you are younger that 24 years old and your parent is providing the majority of financial support to both you and your child, then you are still considered a dependent student and you will need to provide your parent's information on the FAFSA.
My mother is deceased and I do not know my father. I currently live with my grandmother. What is my dependency status?
If your grandmother is your court-appointed legal guardian, then you qualify to file as an independent student. If your grandmother does not have court documentation to meet the requirement of legal guardianship and you are unable to get financial information from your father, complete the student portion of the FAFSA and indicate you are unable to provide parent information on the 'Dependent Status Summary' section. The following pages of the FAFSA will let you notify your schools that you may have a special circumstance they need to review. Then FAFSA will allow you to skip the parent information and financial sections and you can sign the FAFSA and submit it. Although your application will be incomplete, the colleges listed will still receive your data. You should contact the financial aid offices at your selected colleges for further instructions. A grandparents, or anyone else,  who is the student's court-appointed legal guardian is not considered a parent on the the FAFSA.
I am living in foster care and completing the FAFSA. What status do I use?
As a youth-in-care, or a former youth-in-care, you qualify to apply as an independent student. This status may apply to you if you are an orphan (both parents deceased), a ward of the court or in foster care on or after your 13th birthday, even if you have subsequently been adopted or 'aged out' of the system. This may also apply to youth in kinship guardianship. If you are considered independent, your custodial parents' financial information is not required on the FAFSA. The U.S. Department of Education's webpage has a complete list of the criteria that determines dependency. On your FAFSA, be sure to answer YES to the appropriate Dependency Status question so you can receive all the aid for which you're eligible. You may need to show proof of your independent status at the college financial aid office; if so, ask your caseworker for a letter stating your status as a youth in foster care on agency letterhead.
A student was kicked out of the home and no longer has contact with the parents. How is the FAFSA filed without parent information?
On the 'Dependency Status Summary' section the FAFSA will ask whether the student is able to provide parent information; if the student indicates "no," then the FAFSA will allow the student to indicate they have a special circumstance and submit their application without parent information. However, the student will need to get in touch with the college financial aid office to discuss the situation to determine if their special circumstance qualifies them to file as an independent student.

Have other dependency questions? Review the U.S. Department of Education's website: Determining FAFSA Dependency.

I recently got married. Do I have to say I'm married on the FAFSA and report my spouse'sincome, even though they did not contribute to my previous year's income?
Yes; you must indicate your marital status as of the day you are completing the FAFSA and include your spouse's income, even if you did not file taxes together inthe tax year you are required to report.

Financial / Tax Related

How do I link my FAFSA to my federal tax return?
Follow the information on HESC's IRS Data Retrieval Tool page.
I can't find my pension amount for FAFSA question 94a on my federal tax return. Where can I find this information?
You'll find your pension amount on your W-2 form, box 12a-12d - codes D,E,F,G,H and S if applicable. Don't include amounts reported in code DD (employer contributions toward employee health benefits).
I am the custodian of a UTMA account (Uniform Transfer to Minors Act) – how do I report this?
UTMA and UGMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act) accounts, also known as custodial bank accounts, are considered assets of the student on the FAFSA, regardless of the student's dependency status. If you are a parent, do not include UTMA and UGMA accounts as a parent asset if you are the custodian, but not the owner; these are to be reported as student assets.
Should a small family business value, or net worth, be reported on the FAFSA as an asset?
Do not include the net worth of a family owned and controlled small business that employs less than 100 full time, or full time equivalent employees.
Does my 401K count as an investment?
No. Investments do not include the value of life insurance, annuities and tax-deferred retirement plans (401K plans, pension funds, non-education IRA's Keogh plans, etc.).
I don't see any questions about assets on the online FAFSA. Why not?
The online FAFSA uses skip-logic that will ask only the questions the student and family need to complete. You may be exempt from answering based on your previous answers. When you've completed entering your financial data, the online FAFSA will prompt you for any additional information that may be required.
My family is dealing with large medical bills; will that affect my financial aid?
You should notify the college financial aid office of your circumstances and complete a college special circumstances form, if available, or, write a letter, including supporting documentation requesting special consideration.
What is the difference between reporting total earnings from work and disability income? My mother is on disability, but the FAFSA won't let me proceed without entering a total for her earnings. I want to skip the question, since her only income was disability income. How should I proceed?
If your parent did not earn any wages, salaries or tips from work in the tax year the question is referring to, then you may enter "0" for the total amount of earning from work. The disability income should be reported on the FAFSA in the question about your parent's untaxed income. If you skip the rest of the FAFSA questions without reporting your parent's untaxed income, then you should be prepared to provide documentation showing your parent's disability income to the financial aid office when they request information about your parent's finances.
If a parent has 529 college savings plans set up for multiple children, some of whom are not in college yet, do they need to report the value of all those 529 plans or just the amount of the plan established for the student listed on the FAFSA?
The value of all 529 plans needs to be reported as an asset of the parent. The EFC formula will then take into account how many people the parent is supporting in his/her household and will understand that the parent cannot spend all assets on just one child.
The parents of a student are reporting that the income on their tax return is not indicative of their current income situation. How should they report their income on the FAFSA?
The income questions on the FAFSA must be completed as it relates to what is being reported on the Federal Income Tax Return, W2 Form, or other income documents. Therefore, if a question on the FAFSA asks what the AGI is, the parents must fill in the amount of the AGI listed on their tax form, regardless of any special circumstance. If an applicant feels their FAFSA information presents an inaccurate picture of their family's financial situation, they should report this to the financial aid offices at the colleges they are applying to. The financial aid administrator will make a determination if the circumstance warrants an adjustment to the FAFSA and, if so, will provide instructions about required documentation.

TAP

Can I complete the FAFSA and TAP application at the same time?
Yes! You can apply for TAP at the end of the FAFSA on the confirmation page, provided you listed a NYS college. Look for the link, which will take you directly to the TAP online application.
Why did I fail to link to the TAP application after the FAFSA?
It could be for a number of reasons; you may have not listed your state of residency as NYS, or you may have not listed an eligible college located in the State of NY.
I missed the TAP link on the FAFSA confirmation page. How do I apply for TAP.
If your FAFSA information indicates you may be eligible for TAP, you will receive an email from HESC within 3 to 5 business days with a link to the online TAP application.
The TAP application was prefilled with the first New York State College I entered on the FAFSA, but I haven't decided which school I want to attend. What if I choose a different school than the one listed on the TAP application?
You can apply for TAP and make a school code change once you decide what school you will attend.
You have several ways to change the school on the TAP application:
  • Click on - Student Access on HESC Home Page.  It will bring you to My HESC Account Access link - select from the menu.
  • Contact HESC's call center at 1-888-697-4372 and use the automated system to change the code – you'll need your HESCPin.
  • Ask the financial aid office at the college you will attend to change the school code online at HESC.
If I receive a full TAP award at a SUNY school, but decide to attend a private college in New York State instead, will my TAP award increase?
A student's TAP award is need-based, regardless of institution type. The current maximum award is $5,165.

Don't see an answer to your TAP question here? Visit HESC's TAP Frequently Asked Questions page.