Whether you’re applying for a grant, loan or work-study program, you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and make sure you meet certain academic and financial requirements. For scholarship applications, you don’t have to fill out the FAFSA.
Don’t worry. Financial aid isn’t as complicated as it sounds, and we’re here to help you before, during and after the application process.
Applying for aid: Types of aid
Applying for something specific? Read more about how to apply for each type of aid.
Applying for scholarships
You don’t have to complete the FAFSA to apply for scholarships, although we suggest you do — you could be eligible for other types of aid. Unlike other forms of financial assistance, you’ll need to apply for most scholarships individually, and the process will vary by program.
You can apply for SFA’s many scholarship opportunities through mySFA by following these instructions:
- Log in to mySFA
- Select the Financial Aid tab
- Select SFA Scholarship Application
- Within the application you can:
- Request references by submitting names and email addresses
- Complete essays, when required
You may also be eligible for outside scholarships. Read more about scholarship eligibility.
Applying for grants
The U.S. Department of Education and SFA use the information you provide on your FAFSA to determine your eligibility for certain types of grants. Read more about grant eligibility.
Applying for work-study
If you’re interested in the Federal Work-study program, be sure to answer “yes” to Question 31. If you answer yes, and you can demonstrate financial need, the program might be included in your financial aid package. Read more about work-study programs.
Applying for loans
The U.S. Department of Education and SFA use the information you provide on your FAFSA to determine your eligibility for certain types of loans. Read more about loan eligibility.
Applying for aid: the process
One of the first steps to applying for aid is determining your residency status. Then you’ll know which of the following financial aid applications to complete:
- FAFSA: For U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizens (see definition below)
- TASFA: For Texas residents ineligible to complete the FAFSA 2019-2020
Expect to spend about 30 minutes completing your application. There’s no need to rush. You can save your progress on the FAFSA application. The TASFA application is not available online. Make sure you have the following documents ready:
- Your social security number
- Proof of residency card (if applicable)
- Your tax record (more information on tax records below)
- Your most recent W-2 forms or records of money earned
Important information to successfully complete FAFSA application:
- Be sure you include SFA’s Title IV School Code: 003624
- Be sure to use data retrieval when completing the FAFSA. This will allow you to retrieve income information directly from the IRS.
- Make sure you and/or a parent sign the FAFSA to avoid a processing delay
- Verify your answers and check for accuracy — errors will delay the process
The Department of Education selects applicants randomly for verification. If you're selected for verification, you'll receive an email in your mySFA account, indicating that you are missing documents. You will then log into your mySFA account to view the required documents.
If you have completed this year’s tax return, we recommend using data retrieval while completing the FAFSA. This will allow you to retrieve income information directly from the IRS as soon as 3 weeks after you have electronically filed your tax return or eight weeks if you submit a paper form tax return.
All 2017 Non-Tax Filers, including parents and independent students, must submit a 2017 Verification of Non-Filing Letter from the IRS in order for verification to be completed for the 2019-2020 academic year. If you have filed taxes in prior years, you may be able to complete the online request. More detailed instructions are available on the IRS website.
Note: When you submit the Non-Filing Letter to the Financial Aid office, please make sure the student's name and campus ID are on the letter.
Unusual Enrollment History
Federal regulations require SFA to monitor and resolve unusual enrollment history of selected students. SFA is required to review all of the applicant’s transcripts from previously attended colleges or universities. Therefore, all transcripts must be submitted to SFA whether credit was earned or not. After this additional verification is completed by SFA’s Financial Aid Office, it will be determined the if the student is eligible for additional Pell Grant awards.
Statement of educational purpose/identity
Students may be selected by the federal processor to verify their identity and sign a statement of educational purpose. Valid Government-issued photo identification is required to satisfy this requirement.
High school diploma or equivalent
All first-time college students are required to have a High School Diploma, GED, or an equivalent in order to receive financial aid. Students may be selected by the federal processor to verify their high school completion status. Documentation, such as an official high school transcript, may be requested to verify completion of this requirement.
When you complete your FAFSA, you’ll need to include your parents’ financial information unless you qualify for independent status. To qualify for independent status, you must be able to answer “yes” to one of the following questions and be able to provide documentation.
- Were you born before January 1, 1996?
- As of today, are you married? (Also answer "yes" if you are separated but not divorced.)
- At the beginning of the 2019–20 school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctoral degree (such as an M.A., MBA, M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., graduate certificate, etc.)?
- Do you now have—or will you have—children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020?
- Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now and through June 30, 2020?
- Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training? (If you are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee, are you on active duty for other than state or training purposes?)
- Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?
- At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
- Has it been decided by a court in your state of legal residence that you are an emancipated minor or that someone other than your parent or stepparent has legal guardianship of you? (You also should answer “Yes” if you are now an adult but were in legal guardianship or were an emancipated minor immediately before you reached the age of being an adult in your state. Answer “No” if the court papers say “custody” rather than “guardianship.”)
- At any time on or after July 1, 2018, were you determined to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, as determined by (a) your high school or district homeless liaison, (b) the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or (c) the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program?
Applying for aid: the requirements
To receive federal, state, or institutional funds you must:
- Demonstrate financial need (with the exception of some loans)
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours of an eligible degree-seeking or certificate program
- Be in good academic standing and maintain satisfactory academic progress toward completion of a degree or certificate
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
- Have a valid social security number
- If male, be registered with Selective Service or be exempt
- Not owe a refund on a federal grant or be in default on a federal educational loan
When should I apply for aid?
Apply as early as possible! You do not have to wait until you’ve been officially accepted.
While we will accept applications for financial aid throughout the school year, we recommend that you complete yours early to make sure you don’t miss out on available aid. The FAFSA is available October 1 of each year. SFA’s priority deadline is January 15 of each year.
The scholarship application is available September 1 with a deadline of February 1st of each year.
When will I hear back?
Depending on how you submit your FAFSA, it can take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks for the U.S. Department of Education to process your application and send you a Student Aid Report (SAR) with your expected family contribution.
SFA will receive a copy of your FAFSA application, and we’ll use that information to create your financial aid package offer. That process can take as long as 2-3 weeks.
Accepting aid awards
If we offer financial aid and you accept it, funds will be disbursed at the beginning of each semester, usually within 10 days before the first class. The money is applied to your student account.
You are a non-degree seeking student if you haven’t officially been admitted into an SFA degree program but are taking classes here. This designation usually applies to post-baccalaureate students. You might be waiting for official admission into a graduate program, or you want to take a couple of classes without pursuing a degree. As a non-degree student you are ineligible for financial aid.
The federal government considers you a noncitizen, eligible to complete the FAFSA, if you are any 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
- A citizen of the Republic of Palau (PW), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (MH) or the Federated States of Micronesia (FM)
If your citizenship status has recently changed from an eligible noncitizen to a U.S. citizen, contacting the Social Security Administration (SSA) to update your citizenship status will help you avoid delays processing your student financial aid. (Source: https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/fotw15a.htm )
Undocumented or non-citizens classified as Texas residents for tuition purposes under HB 1403 or SB 1528 are not eligible to receive federal financial aid, but you may be eligible for state financial aid.
As a Texas resident, you may apply for state financial assistance by completing the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA). Once your application is complete, submit it to the SFA Financial Aid Office. We will review your TASFA application and determine if you meet the eligibility requirements for state financial assistance.
If you are not a citizen of the U.S. or an eligible non-citizen, you are not eligible for federal student aid. Please contact the Office of International Programs (OIP).