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Financial Aid 101:
Overview of the Process and Application Tips

University of Denver Financial Aid

Overview of the Financial Aid Process:

One of the first steps in understanding how to finance your student's education is learning how the overall process works. Here is a broad overview of what you can expect over the next several months:

When: What:
Now (by February 15th!) Apply for financial aid.
Late February and Early March We'll process your financial aid application and notify your student if we need additional documentation.
Mid-Late March You'll receive a financial aid award package in the mail, which will list all of the aid your student is eligible to receive for the 2016-17 academic year.
April Review and compare your student's financial aid award offers from all schools.
May Your student should take the next steps outlined in the aid package, which include accepting awards and completing student loan requirements.
June If needed, determine the ways your family will manage the costs not covered by your financial aid package.
July Consider additional financing options such as a DU payment plan or a Parent PLUS loan.
August Help your student move into his or her residence hall and attend Discoveries Orientation!
September The fall quarter portion of your student's financial aid will automatically pay toward the DU student bill.
October - May Your student must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 and complete at least 80% of all classes to remain eligible for financial aid.

Throughout the year, encourage your student to search for additional scholarship opportunities that may supplement his or her financial aid package. Start the search now by utilizing our scholarship search page!

We'll go into much more detail about many of these items throughout the rest of the Financial Aid 101 series. In the meantime, however, feel free to review our more comprehensive application checklist.

Tips for Applying for Financial Aid:

Remember: To be considered for federal and institutional aid, you and your student must complete both the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE. Although the application process might seem daunting, it doesn't have to be difficult! Follow these tips to help make applying for aid a more pleasant experience.

Apply by February 15th.
Be sure to submit both the CSS PROFILE and the FAFSA by February 15th to receive priority consideration for all types of financial aid available at DU. If you wait too long, your student may miss out on awards with limited funding. 

If possible, complete your 2015 tax return before your FAFSA.
If you have your taxes done, applying for aid will be much easier. Many of the questions refer to specific lines on the tax return. But if you can't file your taxes before February 15th, that's OK. Just use estimates!

Gather necessary documentation before completing your application.
Having all of your financial documents on hand will make the process easier. Useful documents include:

  • Tax returns
  • W-2 forms and other records of income
  • Current bank statements

Use the same information on both the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE.
Carefully read the instructions, and use the actual information from your financial documents. Doing so may prevent you from having to submit further documentation to our office.

Correctly report the number of family members in college.
This should not include parents in college or any siblings in high school who are taking college classes. When we calculate your student's financial aid eligibility, consideration is given to each sibling enrolled at least half time in a degree-seeking program.

Report tax-deferred contributions to your pension and retirements savings.
Payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans (paid directly or withheld from earnings) include amounts reported on your W-2 form in box 12a through 12d (codes D, E, F, G, H, and S). Those amounts must be reported on your FAFSA and PROFILE as untaxed income.

Report the value of your family-owned business.
The value of any family-owned business should always be reported on the PROFILE. However, on the FAFSA, do not report the value of a family-owned business if your family owns more than 50% AND the business has 100 or fewer full-time employees. If the business is a pass-through entity (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, S-corporation, or LLC), the business income attributable to the taxpayer (e.g., through IRS Schedule C or IRS Schedule K-1) must still be reported on both the PROFILE and the FAFSA.

Don't leave fields blank.
If a field does not pertain to you, enter a '0' instead of leaving it blank. Too many blanks can cause miscalculations and a rejected application.

Be sure to sign your FAFSA!
To complete your FAFSA, both you and your student must sign the application. Submitting the FAFSA without signatures will delay the processing of your student's financial aid.

Pay attention to emails from our office.
We can't stress this one enough. Our primary method of communication to students is via email, so encourage your student to read any emails we send. We may need additional documentation before we can process your financial aid application. And certain emails we can only send to students—not parents. So be sure to communicate with your student frequently about the financial aid process.

Additional Resources
Want more? Here are some additional resources to help simplify the application process:

Up next week: Types of Aid Available and Finding Additional Scholarships

Contact Us:

Financial Aid • University Hall 255 • 2197 S. University Blvd • Denver, CO 80208

Ph: 303.871.4020 • Fax: 303.871.2341 • Email:

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