How to Apply for Financial Aid
Step One: Apply for Assistance
To be considered for most types of assistance, you must first complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Please visit fafsa.gov for more information.
FAFSA Filing Options
You may choose any of these three methods to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA):
- Login to fafsa.ed.gov to apply online (Recommended) or
- Complete a PDF FAFSA (Note: PDF FAFSAs must be mailed for processing) or
- Request a paper FAFSA by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 334-523-2691. If you are hearing impaired, contact the TTY line at 1-800-730-8913.
Complete a PDF FAFSA
On the fafsa.ed.gov website, select the school year for which you are applying for financial aid. For example, if you plan to attend college between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, click The 2018-2019 School Year (July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019). If you plan to attend college between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, click the other link.
The PDF FAFSA is available for you to print and fill out manually or is screen-fillable. Screen-fillable means you can enter your data on the screen before printing. If you choose this option you will not be able to save your data to your PC.
Tips for Filing the FAFSA
The priority filing date at TCNJ is February 15. If the federal processor receives your 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).
Students are not required to have been admitted to TCNJ in order to submit the FAFSA. The Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA), however, will not process applications for aid unless the student has been admitted.
Fill out the FAFSA carefully. Errors and omissions delay the processing of your application. If you are not sure how to answer a question, refer to the “Help?” icon on the FAFSA homepage. If you are still unsure, contact the OSFA at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-771-2211.
Students and parent(s) will need an FSA ID to electronically sign the FAFSA. An FSA ID gives you access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems and can serve as your legal signature. Only create an FSA ID using your own personal information and for your own exclusive use. Visit fsaid.ed.gov to create an FSA ID. Or watch this YouTube tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7ihhGk8mCY
Be sure to use the correct name (no nicknames) 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. This information will be used by the OSFA 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.
To complete the Income, Earnings, and Benefits section, consider using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT). The IRS DRT allows students and parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA, and transfer the data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS Web site. Parents whose marital status is not married filing jointly are unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and must manually enter their federal tax income information.
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. On the “Sign and Submit” page, use your (and your parent(s) if applicable) FSA ID to sign the FAFSA electronically.
Here is a link to “8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA”: https://blog.ed.gov/2017/09/8-steps-to-filling-out-the-fafsa-form/
In some instances, the OSFA can consider highly unusual circumstances that are not reflected by information provided using the FAFSA. Examples of special circumstances include, but are not limited to, death of a parent or spouse after the FAFSA is filed; the separation of parents or of a student and spouse after the FAFSA is filed; job loss; or similar situations. Please visit http://financialaid.tcnj.edu/useful-links/sources-of-financial-aid/special-circumstances/ for more detailed information regarding Special Circumstances. If you wish to pursue a special circumstance, contact the OSFA 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
Your file may be selected for verification. If so, a variety of documents may be required. These items will appear on your “to do” list in TCNJ’s student system, PAWS. You will also receive requests and reminders via e-mail. 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 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 additional documentation will be required. Be sure to indicate 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 should check your PAWS “to do” list regularly. You may be asked to supply the following:
- Immigration and Naturalization Service documentation
- Proof of Selective Service registration
- Marriage licenses
- Separation documents
- Death certificates
- Birth certificates
- Veterans Administration documentation
- Federal tax transcripts
- Verification Worksheets
- 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, have met the basic eligibility requirements, and have completed your file, you will receive an award notification via e-mail from the OSFA. This award letter represents the maximum amount of available aid you are eligible for. For online tutorials “How to Accept Financial Aid Awards” and “How to Interpret Pending Financial Aid” please visit https://financialaid.tcnj.edu/financial-aid-tutorials/.
Your awards viewed on PAWS should include all of your aid or funding sources. It should include all outside scholarships/resources, 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, please notify the OSFA as soon as possible 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 and are a first time borrower, you are required to complete both a Master Promissory Note (MPN) as well as Entrance Loan Counseling (ELC) at StudentLoans.gov. If your academic level (i.e. sophomore to junior) increases after a semester you may be entitled to receive additional Federal Direct Stafford Loan funds. You must email our office if you wish to receive these additional loan funds.
If funds are not available, or if it is determined that you are no longer eligible for a fund awarded to you, the OSFA is not liable for any changes to your award or errors in your award.
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). Bills are available online via PAWS. To access PAWS, you will need the student’s identification number.
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 you will incur late fines and/or your registration will be canceled. Your schedule registration will be confirmed by paying the amount due before the deadline. For bill payment options please visit: https://studentaccounts.tcnj.edu/billing/.
Interpreting Your Bill
TCNJ bills by the semester. Fall bills are produced in July and Spring bills are produced in November. Billing notifications are sent via e-mail. There are no paper bills. You may view the billing calendar here: https://studentaccounts.tcnj.edu/billing/billing-calendar/
Financial aid funds are not disbursed to a student’s account until the end of the drop/add period each semester. If your financial aid application is complete and you have received an award notification, your financial aid for the semester will generally defer or credit all or a portion of the charges on your bill. For this reason, it is important that you complete the financial aid application process early, and that you respond to requests for information immediately.
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 at the end of the drop/add period. 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, financial aid is generally applied to your student account at the end of the drop/add period each semester. If your financial aid exceeds your charges, you will receive a refund. Refunds begin to become available approximately 7 working days after the disbursement of your financial aid. This amount is delivered to you for use for school-related or living expenses. Eligible students will receive an e-mail from the Office of Student Accounts when their refund has been processed. Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in direct deposit by clicking on the following PAWS tutorial page and selecting “How to Sign Up for Direct Deposit”: https://studentaccounts.tcnj.edu/paws-tutorials/. Students that did not enroll in direct deposit will pick up refund checks on the dates indicated in the e-mail in the Administrative Services Building, Room 201.
Students are required to provide yearly award amounts and descriptions of any grants and scholarships received from sources outside The College of New Jersey. This includes (but not limited to) National Guard, V.A. Education Benefits, Vocational Rehabilitation, any tuition/educational expense benefits and/or private grants or scholarship assistance. Students are required to submit the outside scholarship information electronically by accessing their PAWS account. Navigate to Main Menu, Student Self Service, Campus Finances, Report Private Scholarships. Enter the name of the Scholarship, the name of the donor of the Scholarship (if different from the name of the Scholarship) and the amount of the scholarship. There is a place to provide additional information about the scholarship if necessary. Please read the instructions on the form to ensure that the process will go smoothly. Private scholarship(s) will appear on your PAWS account with your other financial aid award(s). The amount will be included in “pending aid” for 30 days or until the funds are received, whichever comes first. Students are responsible for ensuring that private scholarship check(s) are sent to TCNJ.
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 notify you if you need to endorse an outside scholarship check. Checks payable to The College of New Jersey only are deposited into the student’s account.
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.
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.
The main purpose of a graduate assistantship is to further the professional and/or academic development of the graduate student. While the graduate assistant’s duties may involve some clerical work, the assistantship is expected to serve as a meaningful learning experience. The graduate assistant’s responsibilities may include, but are not limited to, support of teaching, research, administration, and other professional activities. Efforts will be made to place students in areas related to their own studies.
An application for a graduate assistantship must be filed with the Office of Graduate Studies and will be held on file for one year. Please resubmit an application for each year you wish to obtain an assistantship. The application will be available in January and will be due in April of each year.
There are a limited number of graduate assistantships available; therefore, selection of graduate assistantships is competitive. The selection of graduate assistants is made by the respective departments offering assistantships.
Graduate assistantships are expected to serve as meaningful learning experiences while also supporting TCNJ’s educational mission. They require 15 hours of work per week during each of the fall and spring semesters while the college is in session.
Graduate Assistants will be awarded a tuition waiver of $10,000.00 per academic year ($5,000 per semester for fall and spring only).
Only those full-time (minimum 9 credits/semester), matriculated graduate students in good academic standing with a minimum undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 are eligible for selection as a Graduate Assistant. A graduate student may be hired on an annual basis as a Graduate Assistant for a maximum of two years.
The Office of Graduate Studies may be reached at 609-771-2300.