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Financial Aid

Mastering FAFSA: Deadlines and Tips to Know

With the 2018-19 FAFSA priority deadlines fast approaching, now is the time to talk with SDState’s Office of Financial Aid to complete your forms and get your maximum award to help fund your educational goals.

So what are the important things to remember about applying for financial help? 

Key first steps

First, it’s important to apply for financial aid even if you think you may not qualify. More than 87 percent of SDState students receive some type of financial assistance, so the only way to know for sure if you qualify for aid is to apply. The FAFSA is easy to complete and is free, so you have nothing to lose.

Second, scholarships and financial aid are two separate types of aid, so if you want to be considered for both, you need to complete both a scholarship application and a financial aid application. Scholarship apps are available from the university you plan on attending, and financial aid applications are available from the federal government at fafsa.gov

Important dates

When you’re investigating deadlines for federal financial aid, you’ll notice different dates. That’s because each university has its own priority deadline. SDState’s priority deadline is March 15 and is the date to meet if you want to be sure you are awarded the maximum amount that you are eligible to receive. Incoming freshmen with completed FAFSAs can expect to hear about their award as early as February.

Tip #1: Abide by the deadlines

Deadlines are important because they can affect how much money you may be awarded for your university expenses. Federal work study and some types of grants are limited, so make sure you meet the priority deadline to be considered for all the assistance that you need.

Tip #2: Strive for accuracy

The FAFSA gives the schools you’re applying to an idea of your overall financial situation so they know your budgetary needs. That’s why reflecting your finances accurately is important for decision-making. Luckily you have the option of speaking with a financial aid counselor to provide guidance and ensure you’re awarded an amount reflective of your current situation.

Bonus tip: Keep in mind that the 2018-19 FAFSA utilizes 2016 tax information, so the best way to provide accurate data is to use the data retrieval tool while completing your FAFSA.

Tip #3: Sidestep the pitfalls

Avoid common mistakes when filling out your FAFSA by preparing ahead of time. Double check all your information for accuracy, especially items like your address, social security number and financial information. Make sure to spell your name correctly and to not include any non-legal nicknames. These can delay your financial aid process and may lead to requests for verification. 

Tip #4: Understand steps for returning students

Returning students are awarded once the final grades have been submitted after the spring semester, usually in June. If you wish to apply for summer term financial aid, however, requirements and deadlines are a little different. Visit the Office of Financial Aid for more information and deadlines—you can find the summer term application here.

Tip #5: Talk to the team

SDState has an Office of Financial Aid for a reason. They’re experts on financial assistance and are here to answer whatever questions you have regarding financial aid, Give them a call at 605-688-4695, or email anytime at sdsu.finaid@sdstate.edu.