How Does College Transfer Affect Your FAFSA Application Process?
These days, most college undergraduates do not spend four years at the same school.
Many cost-savvy students are completing two years at a community college—where they knock off liberal arts courses or (finally) choose a major—before transferring to a four-year college or university to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Others transfer between four-year schools to save money, because they’ve chosen a new major or found the setting wasn’t a good fit.
Whatever the reason for a college transfer, one thing is certain: students still have to pay for school whether they are transferring from a community college to a university or other.
The first thing on your transfer to-do list should be filling out a FAFSA Application , (Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) This is the form schools use to determine eligibility for scholarships, grants, work-study and federal loans. It is required for all students who are applying for need-based aid (funds which do not have to be repaid).
1.) What’s your timeline?
How much do you really need? Sometimes all of your old credit hours don’t transfer to your new school and sometimes life and work experiences can count for college credit. So (with help from a transfer coordinator or counselor, of course) find out what your expenses will really be before filling out a FAFSA application.“In the case of a college transfer, it’s important to have an idea of how much a new school will cost you. Ask for a degree audit before making any financial decisions and that will help you know how many more semesters you have. Knowing you have six more semesters, rather than four, could make a big difference when it comes to tuition.”Kathy Kurz, VP of Scannell & Kurz, Inc., a New York firm that specializes in higher education consulting services.
2.) Complete and file the FAFSA Application (or update the current form)
While filling out a new FAFSA application for the year, the student will need several important documents within reach:
Social security number
Income tax return (yours and your parent/guardian; if you’re a dependent)
College students must fill out a new FAFSA application form for every school year (For example, this year’s would be 2011-2012). A fresh FAFSA can be filed online after January 1 for the coming school year.
If you’re beginning at a new school in the fall semester, a new FAFSA application will need to be filed, but a spring semester college transfer will only need to update the federal school code on the current FAFSA. This number is available on the school’s website, through their financial aid office or by searching the school name or location on the FAFSA site. If you’re unsure which school you’re going to attend that year, enter codes for every option. This way, schools receive the information before financial aid deadlines. You can always edit the FAFSA once a final college decision has been made.
Helpful tips as you fill out the FAFSA Application:
- Read all directions slowly and thoroughly.
- Note your state and school deadlines for filing financial aid. Apply early, if possible,
before you even know if you’re accepted to a new school.
- Estimate your income if you are unsure of the actual amount.
- Do not use the term ‘N/A’ or leave a question blank.
Both of these responses can slow the filing process.
- Make sure you sign or e-sign all submitted documents.
- Keep copies of your financial aid documents for future FAFSA filing.
- For more information, check out: www.finaid.org/fafsa.
3) Sit back and wait for a Student Aid Report (SAR)
The FAFSA can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to process, depending on the time of year it was filed. When it is complete, the student will have a better idea of the tuition assistance he or she will receive, including grants, scholarships and work-study and loans.
Leah Stacy, a graduate of Roberts Wesleyan College (www.roberts.edu), is a freelance writer, photographer and arts publicist.