By Hilerie Harris, marketing and communications coordinator, University Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid

Completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the first step in determining what financial support you may be eligible to receive. It doesn’t take long, and financial aid counselors are available to walk you through the process. To be considered for the maximum amount of aid, complete the FAFSA  at fafsa.gov and any incomplete checklist items on your financial aid file in Campus Information Services (CIS) by March 1.

Q: What kind of funding can I get from the FAFSA?

A: Students may qualify for grants or scholarships that do not need to be repaid. Examples include federal grants, such as the Pell Grant and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, state grants, institutional grants and need-based scholarships. These are typically awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need.

Additionally, students with financial need may qualify for Federal Work Study, or FWS. FWS provides part-time work on campus while students attend school half-time or greater. If students are interested in FWS, they must indicate their interest on the FAFSA.

Students may also be eligible for federal student loans. This money does need to be repaid once the student is no longer enrolled in school. Interest rates are typically low, and depending on financial need, interest may not begin to accure until after the student is out of school. Loans do not need to be accepted in their entirety or at all.

Q: What is the biggest myth you hear about the FAFSA?

A: Many students believe they will not qualify for funding from the FAFSA. We encourage all students to complete the FAFSA. At a minimum, students may qualify for unsubsidized loans (loans that begin accruing interest while you’re in school). Students do not have to accept any loans that are offered.

It helps to have a FAFSA on file in case the unexpected happens, such as an illness, accident or job loss. It is important to have the FAFSA completed well before the academic year starts.

Q: Can I get one-on-one help with the FAFSA?

A: Yes, we encourage students and parents that have questions about completing the FAFSA to visit with a financial aid counselor. Counselors can help you with every step of the FAFSA.  Walk-in appointments are welcomed. The office is located in Student Services Building, Room 105. You can also call us at 801-581-6211 or email us at financialaid@sa.utah.edu.

Q: How do I apply for need-based scholarships?

A: To apply for most need-based scholarships from the University Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, you just need to complete the FAFSA and and any incomplete checklist items on your financial aid file in CIS  by the March 1 priority date. There are a few need-based scholarships that require an application. For information about these scholarships, visit financialaid.utah.edu.

Q: Does it take a long time to complete the FAFSA?

A: According to the Department of Education, the average FAFSA completion time is 21 minutes.

Q: My taxes are not done yet. Should I wait to complete the FAFSA?

A: You don’t have to wait. You can use estimates (from the previous tax year) and update later. When your taxes are done, you can use the data retrieval tool on the FAFSA to import your tax information directly from the IRS.

Q: Is there a deadline to complete the FAFSA at the University of Utah?

A: If students are interested in being considered for the maximum amount of aid programs, such as grants and need-based scholarships, they need to complete the FAFSA and their financial aid file by March 1, 2016. Students can still complete the FAFSA after the priority date and receive aid (such as Pell Grants).