Improve your chances

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Apply Early
To keep it quick and easy, apply online. High school students interested in academic scholarships should apply by January 1 of their senior year.

Fill out the FAFSA
Federal student financial aid may be available to you, but you won't know until you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), available at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Your eligibility is calculated by taking the cost of attending a particular college minus the expected family contribution (EFC). Your EFC is determined by your financial circumstances and how they compare to others applying for aid.

Look Around
There may be other public and private scholarships available through local businesses, clubs and organizations. Do some investigating on the Web. Narrow down your list to those financial aid opportunities that appeal to you most. Then get busy applying!

Take advantage of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

Most applicants for federal student aid can reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on the Web by taking advantage of the IRS Data Retrieval Process. The IRS Data Retrieval Process allows the applicant and his/her parents or spouse, if applicable, to populate income information directly from their federal tax returns. Utilizing IRS Data Retrieval will save time and reduce the likelihood of an applicant’s FAFSA being selected for verification because unchanged income information transferred directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is considered accurate and verified. It is estimated that 84 percent of FAFSA filers can take advantage of IRS Data Retrieval when completing their initial application or later as an update or correction to the FAFSA to satisfy verification.

In order to use the IRS Data Retrieval Process, the applicant and/or parents or spouse, if applicable, must have:

  • Valid Social Security Number
  • Federal student aid Personal Identification Number (PIN)
  • Federal Tax Return on file with the IRS

IRS Data Retrieval is available beginning in early February. The IRS estimates that tax information for electronic tax return filers will be available within 1-2 weeks of submission and 6-8 weeks for paper tax return filers.

Although most FAFSA on the Web applicants will be able to take advantage of IRS Data Retrieval, the following applicants cannot use this tool:

  • Parents of a dependent student who file separate federal income tax returns (i.e. married filing separately or head of household)
  • Student or parent of a dependent student who has a change in marital status after the end of the tax year
  • Student or parent of a dependent student who filed an amended return
  • A Puerto Rican or foreign tax return was filed