Have a senior? Starting this school year, all students must submit a financial aid application to graduate. Every year, billions of financial aid dollars go unclaimed. And in Texas, students miss out on roughly $300 million in grants (free money) each year by simply not enrolling in college. Texas’ new graduation requirement gives students an extra push to get these funds and pursue education or training after high school.

Families play an important role in the financial aid process. Not only do students benefit from motivation at home, but many students will need to report parental information on their application.

While applying for financial aid can seem confusing, we’ve gathered some tools and resources to help you through the process. Keep reading to find out how you can best support your student this school year.

Want to better understand how you can support your student this school year? Keep reading to learn:

  1. About Texas’ new graduation requirement
  2. How financial aid helps students
  3. How to help your student prepare for the application
  4. Where to get more support
  5. How to help your student with next steps

 

Understand Texas’ new graduation requirement

Texas Education Code states that starting with the 2021–22 school year, students must take one of the following actions to graduate:

  • Complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Complete and submit the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA)
  • Submit a signed opt-out form*
  Male adult hugging student in grad cap

 

*Note: Under certain conditions, students can choose to decline the graduation requirement by submitting a signed opt-out form to their school counselor. The form is also available in Spanish. Keep in mind that students who opt out of the requirement can still complete and submit a financial aid application if they change their mind. Be sure to reach out to your student’s school counselor if you have further questions. 

 

 

Understand how financial aid helps students

Financial aid is money to help pay for college or training after high school. By submitting the FAFSA or the TASFA, students can get financial aid for the upcoming school year. So even if your student isn’t sure about attending college now, completing an application leaves the door open for this decision later in the year.

  Student aid application on a desk near a keyboard and money

 

Availability of aid
Financial aid comes in many forms, including grants, scholarships, and loans. It also comes from many sources. The federal government, state agencies, colleges, private companies, and banks are a few. This variety helps make it possible for students to qualify for financial support, regardless of their family’s background or financial situation.

Free aid
As mentioned, student loans aren’t the only form of financial aid out there. Students must submit a financial aid application to qualify for federal and state grants, as well as institutional and private scholarships. This is all free money that students don’t have to pay back!

Long-term impact on student goals
By the year 2030, it’s predicted that at least 60% of jobs in Texas will require some form of higher education credentials or training. So attending college or getting training after high school helps today’s students compete in tomorrow’s workforce. Why not apply for money that can help them do that?

 

 

Help your student prepare for the application

As your student gets ready to complete a financial aid application, they may need your support in the following areas:

  • Figuring out which application to complete
  • Determining their dependency status
  • Determining which parental income to report on the application
  • Gathering necessary information and materials
  • Keeping track of important dates and deadlines
  • Avoiding common errors
  FAFSA form

 

Figuring out which application to complete

Students will submit one of the following applications to apply for financial aid:

  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
    • Application for federal, state, and institutional aid
    • Only available to US citizens, permanent residents, and certain eligible noncitizens*
  • The Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA)
    • Application for state and institutional aid
    • Only available to Texas residents who are not eligible to apply for federal student aid through the FAFSA*

*Note: Parental citizenship status does not impact a student’s eligibility for financial aid.


Determining student dependency status and which parent to report

When applying for financial aid, students are considered either dependent or independent. Financial aid dependency is not the same as IRS/tax dependency. Dependent students must report parent income information on their application. Here, “parent” only refers to biological or adoptive parents.

The following resources can help you figure out your student’s dependency status and which parent (if any) to report on their financial aid application:


Gathering necessary information

Completing the FAFSA or TASFA is much easier if you have the information you need to complete the form. Students and parents of dependent students may need the following to complete their application:

  • Social Security number or alien registration number (if an eligible noncitizen)
  • Federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned from the prior-prior tax year (two years before the year you’re completing the application)
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • An FSA ID* (FAFSA only) to electronically sign the FAFSA

See the Financial Aid Application Checklist for a list of materials needed to complete the application. Encourage your student to connect with the college’s financial aid office about any extra documentation they may need from students.

*Parents who are not eligible to create an FSA ID can sign the FAFSA by printing, signing, and mailing the FAFSA signature page to Federal Student Aid.

Resource spotlight: Watch Federal Student Aid’s FSA ID tutorial to learn how to create an FSA ID.

Hint: Students should use a personal email address for any financial aid or college accounts. Students will lose their district-assigned email addresses after they graduate high school.


Keeping track of important dates and deadlines

Financial aid is offered in annual cycles that run from July 1 to June 30 of the following year. Students should complete an application for the year they are requesting financial aid, and not the current academic year.

The FAFSA and TASFA are available October 1 each year. This is the earliest date that a student can complete and submit their application to apply for aid during the upcoming school year. Financial aid is often awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so encourage your student to apply as early as possible after October 1.

Help your student keep track of the following financial aid deadlines:

  • State priority deadline – In Texas, the state priority deadline is January 15. More financial aid is available to students who apply by this deadline.
  • College deadline – Each college sets its own financial aid deadline. Encourage your student to double check each college’s deadline. In some cases, it may fall earlier than the state priority deadline.
  • Federal deadline – The federal filing deadline is June 30 of the financial aid award year. However, we strongly encourage students to apply by the earliest priority deadline set by the state or college. The longer students wait to apply, the less likely that financial aid will be available.

Keep in mind that students need to apply for financial aid every year they’re in school. Visit Federal Student Aid to learn more about when to apply for financial aid.


Avoiding common student errors

Everyone makes mistakes. But when it comes to your student’s financial aid application, making a mistake could cost them. Help your student avoid these 10 common FAFSA mistakes when they fill out their application.

 

 

Know where to get additional support 

You aren’t the only person who can help your student complete a financial aid application. Ask your student’s school counselor about financial aid events or other opportunities for support. Some schools host campus-wide events on nights or weekends. Others have financial aid “office hours” during the school day. Your student may also be able to work on their application during class. Remind your student what information they’ll need if this is the case.

  Woman helping student at computer

 

Before meeting with a school counselor or other financial aid adviser, preview the application so you better understand where you and your student need help.

  • FAFSA: Complete the 2021–2022 FAFSA on the Web worksheet (also available in Spanish) to see all the questions your student may be asked when completing the application online.
  • TASFA: Print a copy of the TASFA application and highlight any confusing places. Be sure to review the notes on pages 6–8, which answer a lot of common questions. You can also reference this Annotated TASFA, which identifies a few areas that students often struggle with.
 

 

Help your student with next steps

Submitting a financial aid application is only the first step to getting money for college or training after high school. Learn how to support your student in what comes next.

  Financial aid terms file folder

 

  • Confirm that the application was received and processed. FAFSA students can check their Federal Student Aid portal. TASFA students will need to contact colleges directly.
  • FAFSA only: review the Student Aid Report (SAR). This document will let students know if any corrections need to be made on their application. Encourage your student to look over the section “What You Must Do Now.”
  • Respond to verification requests. Students may be asked to submit additional paperwork if their application is selected for verification. Failure to do so could delay or jeopardize their aid offer.
  • Decide what aid to accept. Students can choose to select some, all, or none of the financial aid offered to them. Have your student review this list of questions to better analyze their financial aid offers. In general, encourage your student to accept gift aid before accepting loans. And make sure they understand the terms and interest rates of any loans they do accept. Students should also pay attention to whether the aid they’re receiving is renewable in future years.
  • Learn how aid is paid out. Depending on the type of aid offered, students may need to complete additional steps. For example, students receiving federal loans must complete entrance counseling and sign a master promissory note. Students offered work-study will need to apply for work-study jobs at their college.
  • Understand how to stay eligible for aid. Students must submit a financial aid application every year they need financial aid. Students should get familiar with both federal and school policies for maintaining financial aid eligibility.

Big takeaway: Encourage students to check any communication portals frequently. This includes their email, their FSA account, any college application portals they’ve created, and regular snail mail.

Visit Federal Student Aid to learn more about what to do after submitting a financial aid application. These steps might look different for students completing the TASFA. Encourage your student to contact the colleges they’re applying to if they have questions or concerns about applying, receiving, or maintaining eligibility for financial aid.

Resource spotlight: uAspire’s College Cost Calculator can help students analyze and compare financial aid offers.

 

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Resource Library

Explore the following resources to better support your student in completing and submitting a financial aid application this school year.

 

General resources

 

Resources to support completing and submitting the FAFSA

Resources to support completing and submitting the TASFA

 

Resources to support analyzing financial aid offers