Application Tips

Top Three Tips

  1. Be sure your financial aid applications are error-free.
  2. Read applications carefully and respond to the questions asked as thoroughly as possible.
  3. Pay careful attention to all communications you receive from our office.

Following the additional tips below will help make sure that you avoid the most common mistakes and you receive an award letter in a timely manner.

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

    Be sure to use your full 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 the FAFSA and CSS Profile at the same time.

    Complete both the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile at the same time, using actual information from your income tax forms. Carefully read the instructions that reference specific lines on your tax return. By entering the same information on both applications, you may not have to submit additional documentation to our office.

  • Sign your FAFSA.

    To complete your FAFSA, both you and your parent or guardian must sign the application using your FSA ID. Submitting the FAFSA without signatures will delay the processing of your financial aid.

  • Report education tax credits in the appropriate place.

    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 CSS Profile.

  • Report tax-deferred contributions to your pension and retirement savings as untaxed income.

    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 CSS 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.

  • 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".

  • Correctly report the number of family members enrolled in college.

    Do not include parents currently 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.

  • Accurately report business and/or investment farm value.

    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 percent 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 submit the FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education will process it within 3-5 days. When 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, follow the instructions carefully.

  • Do not update your FAFSA or CSS Profile unnecessarily.

    Once you submit your FAFSA and receive 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 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. The same goes for your CSS Profile 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.

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