Frequently Asked Questions about the FAFSA

What's the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It's the form the federal government and schools use to determine your eligibility for financial assistance. Schools also base their financial aid package on the FAFSA. And, as the name implies, the FAFSA is completely free.

When should I complete a FAFSA?

The new FAFSA form becomes available each year on October 1. Submit your application as soon after this date as possible. Funds may be limited so, if you submit your FAFSA too late, there may be no aid left. Remember to file the application each year you need aid - even if you think you may not qualify for financial aid. Your eligibility can change from year to year, especially if there are changes in your family's circumstances.

Where can I get the FAFSA?

The paper FAFSA is available at any high school, college or library. You may also call (800) 4-FED-AID or apply online.

What is Roanoke's Title IV Code?

When completing the FAFSA, it is important to enter the six-digit federal school code in Step Six for each school you would like to receive your FAFSA results. The individual institutions cannot award financial aid without these official results. The Roanoke College school code is 003736.

Why do I need an Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID)?

The Department of Education is constantly striving to make the financial aid process more efficient, easier to use and quicker. The distribution of Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) is the Departments latest endeavor to accomplish these goals.

How do I get a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID)?

Virtually anyone interested in obtaining financial aid (current students, former students, high-school students, financial aid applicants and even parents) can request and receive an FSA ID

What can I do with an FSA ID?

Your FSA ID can be used for the following:

  • To update and correct information that was submitted on the FAFSA
  • As a means of accessing the NSLDS database
  • Access into the National Student Loan Clearinghouse
  • Sign your Direct Loan Promissory Note

What is an EFC?

When you apply for federal student aid, the information you and your parents report is used in an extensive formula prescribed by the United States Congress. This formula cranks out your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is the amount the Department of Education expects you and your family to contribute toward your education. This number is by no means a bill. It may not exactly match the amount you and your family end up contributing.

What is meant by the term "financial need"?

Your financial need is calculated using the FAFSA's EFC and your Cost of Attendance (i.e., tuition, room and board, fees, books, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses). The Financial Aid Office uses the following equation:

Cost of Attendance - EFC = Need
If need is greater than zero, you are considered to have financial need.

How can a student be considered an independent?

Although some students do not receive any financial assistance from their parents in regards to their college-related expenses, it does not mean that they do not need to report their parents' income on the FAFSA. Many students want to be considered independent, but this status is not easily obtained. Federal laws set forth certain criteria by which a student can achieve this status. Those criterion are listed below:

  • They are 24 years of age as of January 1
  • They are a graduate or professional student
  • They are married
  • They have children who receive more than half of their support from them
  • Both parents are deceased or they are an orphan or ward of the court
  • They have been legally emancipated from their parents
  • They are in legal guardianship
  • They are a veteran of the US Armed forces
  • They have legal dependents other than a spouse or children
  • They are currently serving on active duty in the US Armed Forces for purposes other than training
  • They are considered an unaccompanied youth who was homeless by their high school or school district homeless liaison
  • They are considered an unaccompanied youth who was homeless by the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • They are considered an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless by the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program

Does the Financial Aid Office have any leeway in determining a student's dependency status?

Yes, the Financial Aid Office does have the ability to override the decision on a student's dependency status within certain guidelines. For more information on how to obtain a dependency override, contact the FAO directly.

What is a SAR?

All RC students who want to apply for federal financial aid must file a FAFSA. The results of this application are contained in the Student Aid Report (SAR). If you file a paper FAFSA and do not supply an email address, you will receive this form, which shows the results of your application and requests you to review the information and make corrections, approximately 4 - 6 weeks after submitting your FAFSA. If you file the form online or supply an email address on the paper application, this form must be accessed via the Internet and will be available usually within 5 - 6 day time frame.

What do I do with the SAR when I receive/retrieve it?

When you obtain your SAR, you need to review all information on the form for accuracy. If corrections need to be made, directions are provided. It is important to remember that any corrections made will generate a new SAR from the Federal Processor for your review.

Why didn't you award me any federal funds?

The Financial Aid Office automatically reviews all pre-registered students for college scholarships and grants. However, you must file a FAFSA to apply for federal and need-based funds (NOTE: includes RC Supplemental Grant). This application must be completed each year. If you fail to do so, your award will not contain any federal funds.

I know that I have completed a FAFSA for but, I still haven't gotten my federal financial aid award letter. What can I do?

If you know that you have completed a FAFSA and still have not been awarded federal funds, there may be a problem with your application. Contact the Financial Aid Office and we will be glad to research your file to determine if there is an error on your application that prevented Central Processing from calculating an EFC.

What happens if my family has a unique financial situation that is not accurately reflected on the FAFSA?

Anytime there is an unusual circumstance that you feel affects your ability to pay for a Roanoke College education, you are encouraged to put it in writing and send it to the Financial Aid Office. The FAFSA form is very generic and does not always portray reality for Roanoke families. The Financial Aid Office has the opportunity to use "professional judgment" and re-evaluate the federal form where deemed appropriate.  Students are also encouraged to review Roanoke's Special Circumstances Appeals Form.

What are some circumstances that Roanoke's FAO will consider?

The following circumstances may constitute professional judgment:

  • Loss of employment/reduction of income
  • Loss of earnings due to disability or natural disaster
  • Death of a spouse or parent
  • Divorce or separation
  • Loss of untaxed income/benefits
  • Extraordinary medical expenses that were PAID in 2014 and not reimbursed by insurance
  • Sibling attending a private secondary school
  • Parent enrolled full-time in a post-secondary institution as a degree-seeking student
  • Exceptional legal fees
  • Receipt of a one-time sum of money
  • Support of an elderly parent or disabled child
  • Excessive debt

Do I need to document my unusual circumstances?

In addition to a letter explaining your family's unusual circumstances, you must also provide adequate documentation to support any adjustments you would like the Financial Aid Office to make. If you are unsure what would be considered adequate documentation, contact the Financial Aid Office directly.  Students are encouraged to submit a special circumstances appeals form along with all required documentation.

Is the Financial Aid Office's professional judgment final?

Yes. The Financial Aid Administrator's decision as to whether you have special circumstances is final and cannot be appealed to the Department of Education

What if my family's financial situation changes?

In today's uncertain economic times, families may face changing financial situations. If this should occur, please provide the Financial Aid Office with updated information as soon as possible and counselors will re-evaluate your situation.

I just got my award letter but I still need more money. Will Roanoke negotiate?

No. Roanoke College does not negotiate financial aid funds. The award letter you receive is final unless there is a change in the student's academic profile  or in the family's financial situation. If either is the case, students should place their request in writing and send it to the Financial Aid Office.