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Financial Aid FAQ

What Is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is money that helps students pay for college. There are several types of financial aid:

  • Scholarships and Grants – Money that doesn’t have to be repaid
  • Loans – Money that must be repaid with interest
  • Work-Study – Money that’s earned and doesn’t have to be repaid

These different types of aid also come from different sources:

  • Federal government
  • DC government
  • Colleges/universities
  • Other organizations

After you are accepted to a college and submit all required financial information, the college will send you a financial aid award letter. This letter will include federal and college/university financial aid and may include scholarships from the DC government/other organizations. 

How Do I Get Financial Aid?

  1. Apply to your colleges by their priority scholarship deadlines. This varies by college but is often the same as the Early Decision/Early Action deadline. Colleges give the most money to students who apply early.
  2. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible. The FAFSA usually opens on October 1st, and each college will set their own FAFSA deadline. You must complete the FAFSA to receive federal student aid as well as most aid from colleges, the DC government, and other organizations.
  3. Submit other required financial aid forms. Some colleges require the CSS Profile or another form in addition to the FAFSA. Check with your colleges about any additional applications and deadlines.
  4. Apply for the District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) using the DC OneApp. DCTAG pays up to $10,000/year toward the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition at two- and four-year public colleges and universities. DCTAG also pays up to $2,500/year toward tuition at private HBCUs nationwide and other private colleges and universities in the DC metro area. The 2024-25 DCTAG application deadline is September 6th, 2024. 

How Do I Submit the FAFSA?

  1. Create your account (FSA ID). Do not use your DCPS email address to create this account. Make sure to write down your username and password and verify your phone number and email address.
  2. Ask your parent(s) to create their own account(s). This is required. Your parents may already have accounts if they went to college or if you have an older sibling. Make sure your parents can log in to their accounts.
  3. Gather the following information: your Social Security number (SSN), your parent’s SSN, and your family’s federal income tax returns, W-2s, and bank statements.
  4. Start and complete the student section of the FAFSA. You will need a parent’s SSN to complete this section. If possible, complete the FAFSA with your parent(s).
  5. Start and complete the parent section of the FAFSA. Your parent(s) can access the invitation to the FAFSA via email or under “My Activity” in their account(s).
  6. Contact your school counselor or college and career coordinator with any questions.

What Do I Do After Submitting the FAFSA?

Federal Student Aid will process your FAFSA after you submit both the student and parent sections. When your FAFSA is processed, you can log in to your account and view your FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS). The FSS used to be called the Student Aid Report (SAR). The FSS will include federal student aid estimates (i.e., grants, loans, and work-study) and your Student Aid Index (SAI). The SAI is a number that compares your financial need to other students’ financial need.

The colleges that accept you will deliver your final financial aid offer in an award letter. These award letters will include federal student aid as well as financial aid from the colleges.

Read your award letters carefully to figure out if the aid you received will cover your expenses. You will need to pay for any expenses that exceed your aid. You can do this by working to earn money, applying for scholarships, or reducing your expenses (e.g., by living at home). 

Here are additional resources:

Please contact Rachel Venator at [email protected] with questions about financial aid and scholarships.