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Undergraduate Financial Aid

Applying for Aid

Tips for Completing the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE

Remember: To apply for both federal and institutional financial aid, you must complete both the FAFSA and the CSS PROFILE. (The CSS PROFILE is not required for students in The Women's College or University College, however.) And you must reapply for aid every year you attend DU.

Always use your full legal name and correct social security number.

Be sure to use the legal name and social security number as they appear on your Social Security card when applying for aid. Do not use your parents' social security number, your DU ID number, or nicknames, as this will delay the processing of your applications.

Complete your FAFSA and CSS PROFILE at the same time (after January 1st).

By waiting until the first of the year to complete the FAFSA and PROFILE, you will only have to collect your information once, and you can make sure you are reporting the same information on both applications. If you can, wait until you have filed your taxes before applying for aid.

If at all possible, file your federal income tax forms before applying for aid.

The application process is much simpler if you complete and submit your federal tax forms to the IRS first. Using estimates can delay the processing of your financial aid award. If you can, file your taxes electronically--you can usually use the IRS data retrieval tool to complete your FAFSA 2 weeks after filing your taxes electronically. This will import your tax return data directly into your application. If you file a paper return, it may take up to 6 weeks before the IRS data retrieval tool will be available.

Use the same information on both the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE.

Complete both applications using actual information from your income tax forms, and carefully read the instructions that reference specific lines on your tax return.

Apply for aid by the priority deadline.

If you are a new student, apply for financial aid by February 15th. This will ensure you receive your financial aid award before the May 1st deposit deadline, and you will receive priority consideration for highly sought after awards (like work-study). Continuing students should apply by March 15th every year, which will allow us to complete your award package before the end of spring quarter.

Sign your FAFSA!

To complete your FAFSA, both you and your parent must sign the application. Submitting the FAFSA without signatures will delay the processing of your financial aid. The easiest and fastest way to sign it is using your Federal Student Aid PIN.

Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when completing the FAFSA.

If you or your parents filed a federal tax return with the IRS, you may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import your tax data directly into your FAFSA. We strongly encourage you to use this tool--it may prevent you from having to submit further documentation from the IRS. If you completed the FAFSA using estimates before you filed your tax return, please go back and correct your FAFSA by using data retrieval once your tax returns have been submitted.

Report education tax credits.

Education tax credits are excluded from income in the need analysis formula. The amount of education tax credits (also called the American Opportunity Credit or Lifetime Learning Credits) that you or your parents claimed on a federal tax return should be reported as "Additional Financial Information" on the FAFSA and as "Income and Benefit Information" on the PROFILE.

Report federal work-study earnings.

Work-study earnings are excluded from income in the need analysis formula. If you are a continuing student and had a work-study job in the prior calendar year, your earnings should be reported as "Additional Financial Information" on the FAFSA and as "Income and Benefit Information" on the PROFILE. 

Report tax-deferred contributions to your pension and retirement 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). The amounts must be reported on your FAFSA and PROFILE as untaxed income. If you overlook reporting this information and are offered financial aid on the basis of that incomplete data, we may have to reduce your financial aid later.

Be sure to answer the FAFSA gender question.

If you leave this blank, we may not be able to verify if you have fulfilled your Selective Service requirement, which may delay the processing of your application.

Have you already received a bachelor's degree?

You will be asked this question on the FAFSA--be sure to read it carefully! If you will not complete your first bachelor's degree before the upcoming academic year, answer "No."

Report the number of family members enrolled in college.

Do not include parents in college or any siblings in high school who are taking college classes. When we calculate your financial aid eligibility, consideration is given to each sibling enrolled at least half time in a degree-seeking program.

How to report business and/or investment farm value on the PROFILE and FAFSA. 

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. Business and/or investment farm value includes the market value of land, buildings, machinery, equipment, inventory, etc., less business and/or investment farm debt, which means only those debts for which the business and/or investment farm was used as collateral.

Review your FAFSA Student Aid Report.

Once you have submitted the FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education will process it within 3-5 days. Once your application is processed, you will receive a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR), which summarizes the information you provided on your FAFSA. Carefully review the information on your SAR for accuracy. If corrections are needed, please follow the instructions carefully.

Do not update your FAFSA unnecessarily.

Once you have submitted your FAFSA and received your Student Aid Report (SAR), please don't make any changes unless your SAR instructs you to do so. The information you report on the FAFSA is supposed to be a "snapshot" in time, so please don't update elements that have changed after you initially completed the FAFSA (such as the amount in your checking account). Making unnecessary changes may result in a delay of processing your financial aid application.

Pay attention to emails you receive from our office.

We may need additional documentation from you before we can process your financial aid application. Our primary method of communication to students is via email, so be sure to read any email we send you, as it will likely contain important information about your financial aid account!