Part: 2 - - The application process for financial aid
SectionTitle: How to apply
How to apply
Students apply for federal student aid by completing the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), either electronically
or on paper. Students must file FAFSAs even if they are only
applying for a Federal Direct Loan or a Federal Family Education
Loan (FFEL). To complete the FAFSA, students will need copies of
their income tax returns (and their parents' returns), W-2 forms,
current bank statements, and records of any stocks, bonds, and other
investments and assets used in completing the FAFSA.
A student does not have to pay a fee if he or she fills out only the
FAFSA. However, a student may be required to fill out additional
questions on a separate form in order to be considered for some state
or institutional aid, and a fee may be charged for processing these
additional questions. Check with your state agency to find out if it
requires applicants to submit separate forms to receive state aid.
(Note that some states do use FAFSA data to award aid.)
Included with the 1997-98 FAFSA is a postcard that students can
complete and return to the processor with their completed application
if they wish to be notified when their application was received. The
postcard will be date stamped by the processor and returned to the
student. (Please note that the postcard is not prepaid; each student
must remember to affix a postage stamp to his or her postcard.)
Students may apply for aid electronically through the Electronic Data
Exchange (EDE) or FAFSA Express. A student who files through
EDE should first complete a paper FAFSA to take to the school. For
institutions or schools that participate, EDE allows financial aid
administrators to enter electronically the data required for the
FAFSA. After the financial aid administrator reviews the entered
data, the information is sent electronically to the central processing
system (CPS). The CPS then processes the data and sends the school
an electronic ISIR and the student a one-part SAR Information
Acknowledgement containing the student's information and the
results of the eligibility calculation.
Bear in mind that if the student applies through the EDE system, you
must obtain the student's signature on a completed paper application
or on the "echo document" printed through EDE, and you must keep
the signed document in your files even if the student does not
receive federal student aid or does not attend your institution.
FAFSA Express allows students to apply electronically without
going to a school to use EDE; it requires only an IBM compatible
computer with a Windows operating system and a modem. FAFSA
Express is designed to be the easiest and fastest way to apply for
federal student aid. If a student files using FAFSA Express, he or she
transmits the application data to the CPS via modem. If a printer is
available, the student should print, sign, and mail a signature page to
the FAFSA processor. The CPS processes the data and sends the
student a SAR.
If a signature page is not sent within 14 calendar days of FAFSA
receipt, the student will receive a "Reject 16" SAR in the mail. The
SAR must then be signed and returned to the FAFSA processor.
(Institutions and states will receive ISIRs for Reject 16 records.)
Copies of the 1997-98 FAFSA Express program were mailed to
libraries, postsecondary schools, and high schools in late December
1996. The program can be ordered by calling 1-800-801-0576.
Additional information about FAFSA Express is available by calling
Also, beginning late December 1996, students, parents, and financial
aid administrators are able to download the FAFSA Express software
from the Department's World Wide Web site at
Note that beginning in 1997-98, each student who files using FAFSA
Express may save his or her data to a diskette (separate from the
diskette containing the FAFSA Express program); the student will
not be able to save this personal data to the computer's hard drive.
Previously, students were not able to save this data, due to privacy
Finally, note that some students will not have to complete an entire
FAFSA, but rather can use a Renewal FAFSA, preprinted with
last year's data, and simply change or add information as needed.
(Photocopies of Renewal Applications and of Student Aid Reports
cannot be processed, due to the requirements of image scanning
For 1997-98, the CPS will mail Renewal Applications to students
who applied for federal student aid in 1996-97 and who meet certain
conditions--for instance, their Social Security Numbers and
addresses were valid, they were not in default, and so forth. These
students must provide new financial and some nonfinancial
information on the Renewal FAFSA but can leave other information
the same if it has not changed.
These students will receive Renewal Applications in the mail or from
their schools between December 1996 and January 1997. (The CPS
will print and mail Renewal Applications only to those students
whose records were not requested by a school.)
In the fall of each year, a school may request that Renewal
Applications for some or all of the students who listed that school on
their applications for the previous year be printed by the CPS and
mailed in bulk to the school. (The school is then responsible for
distributing the Renewal Applications to the students.) There will
now be a wider window of time for schools to request and receive
bulk mailings of Renewal Applications. The schedule of activities for
requesting Renewal Applications was provided in Action Letter #1
Alternatively, schools participating in EDE may request the
electronic Renewal Application records for their students at any time
during the school year. The school must then print out Renewal
Applications and provide them to students, and must also enter and
transmit the completed Renewal Application data to the CPS
To promote the continued growth of the Renewal Application, the
Department has streamlined the process for 1997-98. Schools will be
able to request selected individual records or all students by specific
grade levels. Institutions or third-party servicers that serve as a
destination point and do Renewal Application processing for
multiple schools will be able to request all applications for all
institutions or all records for specific institutions.
The Renewal Application has a simplified layout for 1997-98; for
example, it now has a two-column layout rather than a three-column
one, and response fields now closely match the ovals on the FAFSA.
For questions about Renewal Applications, please call CPS Customer
Service at (319) 339-6642.
Dear Colleague Letters and Action Letters sent to schools each year
provide further information on deadlines and procedures. If you need
technical information, check the system updates and technical
guidance announcements that are regularly posted on the SFA
Bulletin Board System (BBS). The Bulletin Board information can
be searched, viewed, downloaded, or printed and contains all
currently published Dear Colleague Letters, Title IV Federal
Registers, the SFA Handbook, and SFA Announcements. Those
with Internet access can log on to the BBS at http://sfa.ed.gov.
To order free BBS software for dial-in access, please call