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Apply for Financial Aid

How to Apply for Financial Aid

Step One: Apply for Assistance

To be considered for most types of assistance, you must first complete either the FAFSA or the Renewal FAFSA.

The FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA

For most students, submitting either the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA begins the financial assistance process. Keep in mind that you must file a new application for each academic year. Complete only one application type, either the FAFSA or the Renewal FAFSA. This form is required for consideration for any need-based aid. Also, all federal aid, including non-need-based loan programs, requires one of these forms.

A reminder to file the Renewal FAFSA is emailed to previous applicants to the address on record with the United States Department of Education in November. However, if you are a previous applicant and you have not received the Renewal FAFSA by January 1, you should complete the FAFSA.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

You may obtain a copy of the FAFSA either at the Office of Student Financial Assistance, any public library, a high school guidance counselor’s office, or any college or university. Once you have completed either the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA, mail it to the federal processor in the envelope attached to the form. Do not mail the form before January 1, and do not mail it to the Office of Student Financial Assistance.

Tips for Filing the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA

The priority filing date at TCNJ is March 1. If the federal processor receives your FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA by this date, your application becomes a priority application. This means you have a better chance of receiving funds that are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis (although there are no guarantees).

Please note: March 1 is not a postmark deadline — the application must be received by this date. It is preferable for you and/or your family to have filed your Federal Tax Return before completing the application, although you may estimate this information in order to file by March 1.

Students are not required to have been admitted to TCNJ in order to submit the FAFSA or RFAFSA. The Office of Student Financial Assistance, however, will not process applications for aid unless the student has been admitted.

Read the instruction book for the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA carefully before you fill out the form. This is very important. Errors and omissions delay the processing of your application. If you are not sure how to answer a question, refer to the instructions. If you are still unsure, contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance.

Be sure to use the correct name and Social Security number on your application. This will prevent delays later in the process.

Complete the expected enrollment status section as accurately as possible, since this information will be used by the Office of Student Financial Assistance in determining your eligibility for aid programs.

Your answers to the Student Status questions determine whether you are a dependent or independent student for the purposes of financial aid.

If you answer “no” to all six questions in the Student Status section, you are a dependent student. Dependent students must provide parental information and obtain parent signatures.

If you can correctly answer “yes” to any one question, you are considered independent. Independent students are not required to provide parental information. Refer to the definitions given for each question.

When you complete the Income, Earnings, and Benefits section, pay special attention to the tax line numbers given for some questions. These will guide you to the correct figures from your tax forms. Be sure to include any Earned Income Credit reported on your tax form. Examine Worksheet A in the instruction booklet to see if you should report any untaxed income. Also read the instructions for Worksheet B carefully.

You must complete all sections of the form, including the Asset Information section. TCNJ requires that you fill out this section.

In the Releases and Signatures section, be sure to list The College of New Jersey as a school to receive your application data. The TCNJ Title IV School Code is 002642. Also make certain that you designate the appropriate housing code. Be sure the required signatures are present on the application before mailing — without appropriate signatures, your application will be rejected. Do not enclose tax returns or other extraneous information with your application, as it will not be retained by the processor or forwarded to TCNJ.

Four to six weeks after you file the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA, you should receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) from the federal processor. If you do not, call the federal processor at (319) 337-5665.

Once you receive the SAR, read all comments to make sure your application has been processed and that all information is accurate and complete. If your SAR contains comments you do not understand, contact our office for help.

Check the Information Release section of your SAR to be sure TCNJ is listed as a school to receive your information. If not, contact our office. If you have corrections to be made, contact our office. We can correct your application electronically, which greatly speeds the financial aid process.

If you do not need to make changes, you do not need to send in your copy of the SAR. We will receive an electronic record of your SAR automatically, as long as you listed our school on your FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA. If you did not list our school or if your FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA was rejected by the federal processor, we will not automatically receive your SAR information. Students wishing to add TCNJ as a recipient institution of their FAFSA/RFAFSA information must provide TCNJ with a signed photocopy of the original SAR. This also applies to students who need to correct FAFSA/RFAFSA information.

Special Circumstances

In some instances, the Office of Student Financial Assistance can consider highly unusual circumstances that are not reflected by information provided using the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA. However, the Office is very conservative and adheres to all federal guidelines. Examples of special circumstances include, but are not limited to, death of a parent or spouse after the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA is filed; the separation of parents or of a student and spouse after the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA is filed; job loss; or similar situations. If you wish to pursue a special circumstance, contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance for the appropriate forms. Extensive supporting documentation will be required before your situation is reviewed. Do not send any information regarding special circumstances to the federal processor. They will not respond to personal letters and will not forward the information to TCNJ. Files requesting special circumstance consideration will not be reviewed until all required documents have been submitted.

Step Two: Complete Your File

After filing the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA, you must complete your file at the Office of Student Financial Assistance. There is a variety of documents that you may be required to submit. Until we have all the information we need, you cannot receive an offer of financial aid. Required documents may include, but are not limited to:

Social Security Number Documentation

If you file your FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA with the wrong social security number, additional documentation will be required from you. If you have changed your name but have not updated this with the Social Security Administration before filing the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA, additional documentation will be required. Make sure you also give TCNJ the correct name and social security number when you apply for admission.

Other Documentation Requirements

Please be aware that sometimes the need for additional documentation arises in the midst of the financial assistance process. We cannot continue processing your application until we have all the information we need. As we review information, the status of your file may change. You may be asked to supply the following:

  • Immigration and Naturalization Service documentation
  • Proof of Selective Service registration
  • Documentation of medical conditions
  • Marriage licenses
  • Separation documents
  • Death certificates
  • Birth certificates
  • Veterans Administration documentation
  • Federal 1040, W2 forms, 1099, or specific tax schedules
  • Federal Student Aid Programs Verification Worksheet
  • Verification of Untaxed Income and/or Benefits
  • Copy of your social security card.
  • Other documentation as requested

You do not need to provide any of the above documents unless we request them.

Step Three: Accept Your Award

After you have filed the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA, have met the basic eligibility requirements, and have completed your file, you will receive an award notification from the Office of Student Financial Assistance. This award letter represents the maximum amount of available aid you are eligible for. Before you return the letter to our office, you must first review it. Below are the items you should carefully consider before returning the award letter.

Your awards viewed on PAWS should include all of your aid or funding sources. It should include all outside scholarships/fellowships that you have obtained on your own, any outside educational loans, veterans benefits, ROTC scholarships, vocational rehabilitation benefits, tuition waivers, merit awards, graduate assistantships, etc. If your awards do not indicate all of your funding sources, you must notify us in writing immediately, as your award may have to be revised.

An award is based on specific information, including your status as in-state or out-of-state (residency), your housing status (on campus, with parents or relatives, or off campus), and your enrollment hours (full-time, three-quarter time, half time, etc.). A change in any of these elements may affect your award.

If you plan to attend TCNJ in both the Fall and Spring, your award should indicate financial aid for both semesters. If you are attending only one semester, your award should be based only on that semester. Notify us immediately if you need to report such an enrollment change; you should then expect a revised award letter.

Some types of awards require that you complete additional forms or applications. Loans in particular require that you follow a specific application procedure. Your award only indicates your eligibility for a loan; unless you follow correct procedures, you will never receive any funds from this source. If you have been awarded a loan, the application procedure will be enclosed with your award letter. The procedure will explain that a loan must be approved on your behalf before funds will be available at TCNJ. Please read all of the loan enclosures carefully.

If funds are not available, or if it is determined that you are no longer eligible for a fund awarded to you, the Office of Student Financial Assistance is not liable for any changes to your award or errors in your award.

Award Revisions

An award may require revision, often due to additional information received or additional outside aid received. If this is the case, any revised award overrides any previous offer of aid. This sometimes means that you must repay funds already received.

Step Four: Pay Your Bill

The Office of the Student Accounts sends e-mail billing notifications in July (Fall semester) and November (Spring semester). Supplemental bills are available online via PAWS. To access PAWS, you will need the student’s identification number.

If you register late, you must access your bill online via PAWS. Students who did not register for classes during their appropriate registration cycle will incur late charges during Late Registration.

If you have difficulty accessing your student account via PAWS, contact the Office of Records and Registration to confirm your PAWS ID and the Office of Student Accounts to confirm the amount of your bill.

All prior-semester unpaid charges will appear on each bill. These prior charges must be paid before you can re-enroll. Read your bill carefully and follow all instructions. You must pay the amount due before the deadline or your registration will be canceled. Your schedule registration will be confirmed by paying the amount due before the deadline.

Interpreting Your Bill

Your bill is due before you have access to your financial aid, since funds may not be disbursed to students until the semester begins. Your financial aid for the semester will generally defer or credit the charges on your bill, as long as you have been awarded and have accepted your financial aid. For this reason, it is important that you complete the financial aid application process early, and that you respond to requests for information immediately. For the Fall semester, you must have been awarded and have accepted your financial aid award by August 1st to expect deferment of any charges. You must have been awarded and have accepted your financial aid award by December 15th to expect deferment of any Spring semester charges.

Financial aid that can be applied/credited to your charges will appear on your semester bill. The payment due already reflects any deferrable payments.

Certain aid sources are not applied/credited toward your charges. This includes aid that has been awarded but not accepted. This also includes Federal Work-Study and various other benefit/tuition payment programs.

Even though your bill may show a credit of financial aid funds, the aid is not actually disbursed to your student account until the funds are received and the semester begins. Refer to “Step Five” for important requirements you must meet before aid funds may be applied to your account.

Step Five: Receive Your Funds

If you have successfully completed Steps 1 through 4 before August 15 for the Fall semester, or before December 15 for the Spring semester, financial aid is generally applied to your student account at the beginning of the semester. If your financial aid exceeds your charges, you will receive a refund check. Refund checks are available approximately 14 days after the disbursement of your financial aid. This amount is delivered to you for use for school-related or living expenses. Students will be notified via email when their refund checks are available for pick up at ASB Room 201. Emails are generally sent by Student Accounts on Wednesdays and students can pick up their checks the rest of the business day Wednesday and Thursday. Any check that is not picked up will be mailed on Friday to the student’s permanent home address.

Some types of financial aid (i.e. private loans) require that you sign a paper check before funds are applied to your account. Once the checks are received, the Office of Student Accounts will contact you to endorse the funds. If the check requires a borrower’s signature (i.e., a parent), the borrower must sign the check before it is applied to the student’s account.

Outside Scholarships

As soon as you become aware that you will receive an outside scholarship (an award from a high school, a local civic club or church, educational foundation, etc.), you must notify the Office of Student Financial Assistance: students should submit the outside scholarship information electronically by accessing the Private Scholarship Information Form. Submit this form and the Office of Student Financial Assistance will receive the information electronically. Completing this online form should facilitate the processing and posting of the scholarship information in a timely manner to the student’s account. Any outside scholarship check you receive should be endorsed, if necessary, and forwarded to the Office of Student Accounts. Most donors wish to forward checks directly to TCNJ. Please instruct your donor to send your check to the Office of Student Accounts, and to include on the scholarship check: the name of the scholarship, the term(s) for which the award is made, and your complete legal name and PAWS ID. If the donor does not provide instructions otherwise, the amount of the scholarship check will be divided and disbursed equally to you for the Fall and Spring terms.  Outside scholarships totaling $1,000 or less will be credited toward the student account within one semester. Amounts greater than $1,000 will be divided and credited equally between the award semesters.

Checks payable to the student only, or co-payable to both The College and the student, will require endorsement; the Office of Student Accounts will call you to endorse an outside scholarship check. Checks payable to The College of New Jersey only are deposited into the student’s account.

The Office of Student Accounts will defer the tuition for the scholarship amount until October 31st for the Fall semester and March 30th for the Spring semester.

If the scholarship funds are not received by the dates listed above, the deferment will be removed from the account and it is the student’s responsibility to contact the scholarship agency regarding the funds. Please notify the Office of Student Accounts regarding the status of your scholarship.

If the scholarships create a credit balance on the student’s account, the student may transfer the funds to their “Get It Card” account to purchase books and supplies, or they may request a refund in the Office of Student Accounts.

If a student with an outside scholarship completely withdraws after the beginning of the term, funds are returned to all aid sources according to TCNJ’s Refund and Repayment Policy.

Note: Financial aid award packages containing either federal, state, or institutional assistance CANNOT exceed the student’s Cost of Attendance.  Students receiving outside assistance in combination with federal, state, or institutional assistance are subject to Cost of Attendance guidelines.

The College of New Jersey, Office of Student Accounts, Green Hall 122, Post Office Box 7718, Ewing, NJ 08626-0718; telephone 609/771-2172; fax: 609/637-5111.

Federal Work-Study

Federal Work-Study students are paid every two weeks for the hours they worked during the previous pay period. These checks are distributed to students through The College of New Jersey Payroll Office, Administrative Services Building. Direct Deposit of student payroll is available. For information concerning this benefit, call 609/771-3469. Depending on the date you begin working, your first paycheck may be delayed.

Graduate Assistantships

Contact the Office of Graduate Studies 609/771-2300 for details concerning assistantship opportunities.

Disbursement Holds

You may have to clear a hold with the Office of Student Financial Assistance before financial aid funds may be disbursed or applied to your student account. Awards are only valid for a limited amount of time. Respond to a notice from the Office of Student Financial Assistance or the Office of Student Accounts right away.