To receive financial aid, you must complete the FAFSA, which is available online on October 1 each year. Prospective students should check institutional and state award deadlines and apply as early as possible to have the best chance of receiving financial aid.
Many online programs require students to meet specific credit hour requirements to receive certain amounts or types of aid. Therefore, whether a student is enrolled part-time or full-time may affect their ability to receive financial aid.
The FAFSA requires basic information such as students’ contact information and social security number, as well as their most recent federal income tax return and bank statements. Undergraduate students under the age of 24 – who are not married, veterans, or active duty military – must complete the form as a dependent and provide their parents’ financial information.
It is assumed that a dependent student is supported by their parents. Therefore, the parent and student information is evaluated to get an idea of the family’s financial strength. Students who are not in contact with their parents can still complete the FAFSA as a dependent under certain circumstances, but they must contact the institution’s financial aid office after submitting it. Students who are at least 24 years old, or who are under 24 and meet certain legal requirements, are considered independent and use their own financial information.
Then fill out other financial aid forms and apply for scholarships. Many colleges offer their own source of financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, loans and federal work-study jobs. However, some online degree programs do not offer work-study opportunities, as many online students are already working full-time.
Discipline-related organizations are good places to look for online scholarships. In addition, the U.S. News Scholarship Finder has thousands of options you can search. Online learners may be eligible for the same scholarships available to on-campus students, and there may even be additional scholarships for online or adult learners.
Applicants will receive a student aid report from the federal student aid office after submitting the FAFSA online. This is an opportunity for applicants to review or correct any information on the FAFSA, including adding or deleting institutions.
Each institution calculates the applicant’s financial need, which determines their eligibility for financial aid. Students then receive an award letter indicating the financial aid offered by the institution. They can compare their awards based on their aid eligibility, tuition, and other costs at the institution.