I probably don't qualify for financial aid. Should I apply anyway?

Yes. Many families mistakenly think they do not qualify for aid and prevent themselves from receiving aid simply by failing to apply. Additionally, a few sources of aid, such as unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans, are available regardless of need. You can begin the process by completing the FAFSA, which is absolutely free.

Must I reapply for financial aid every year?

Yes. You must apply for financial aid each year. After your first year, you will complete a Renewal Application, which contains preprinted information from the previous year’s FAFSA. If your financial circumstances change, you may receive more or less aid. Your eligibility for financial aid may change significantly, especially if you have a different number of family members in college. Renewal of your financial aid package also depends on satisfactory academic progress toward a degree, such as earning a minimum number of credits and achieving a minimum GPA.

How do I apply for a Federal Pell Grant and other types of need-based aid?

Submit the FAFSA. To indicate interest in student employment, student loans, and parent loans, you should check the appropriate boxes. Checking these boxes does not commit you to accepting these types of aid. You will have the opportunity to accept or decline each part of your aid package later. Leaving these boxes unchecked will not increase the number of grants you receive.

Is it legal for a 17-year-old student to sign a promissory note for a student loan, even though the student has not yet reached the age of majority?

Yes. The Higher Education Act was amended in 1992 to permit eligible students, defined as per Title IV regulations, to sign promissory notes for their own federal student loans.

Are my parents responsible for my educational loans?

No. Your parents are not responsible for your educational loans unless they co-sign your loans. Your parents do not need to co-sign your federal student loans, even if you are under age 18. In general, you alone are responsible for repaying your educational loans.

Note the exception: Parents are responsible for Federal PLUS loans.

I received an outside scholarship. Should I report it to the Financial Aid Office?

Yes. You must report the scholarship to the Financial Aid Office. Federal law requires that all scholarships and grants intended for college costs be included in the financial aid award. No exceptions to this requirement exist. Note that an outside scholarship may, unfortunately, result in an adjustment of your financial aid package based on your need or eligibility for aid.

Are work-study earnings taxable?

Yes. The money you earn from Federal Work-Study is subject to federal and state income tax. These earnings, however, are exempt from FICA taxes provided you are enrolled full-time and work less than half-time. Work-study students can work up to 20 hours per week. No exception to this federal rule exists.

How soon should I submit the FAFSA form?

Complete and submit the form as soon as possible after October 1. Do not wait until your income taxes are complete. Although it is better to complete and submit your taxes early, it is acceptable to use estimates of your income, as long as actual amounts are not significantly different.

Note to South Carolina residents: The deadline date to apply for the SC Tuition Grant is June 30.  No extensions for this deadline exist.

Are programs available to provide financial assistance to home-schooled students?

Home-schooled students are eligible for federal student aid for college if they have “completed a secondary school education in a home school setting that is treated as a home school or private school under State law” (Section 484(d)(3) of the Higher Education Act of 1965). Most home school students are eligible for federal and state financial aid.