We would like to tell you that getting financial aid is easy, but, the truth is, the FAFSA can be intimidating and difficult to decipher. We can, very honestly, tell you that we are here to help you figure it out.

We’ve compiled a few tips to help you through the process. You can also call our Office of Financial Assistance at 319-895-4216 if you have any questions.

What information should I have available before I file for federal student aid?

  • An FSA ID for yourself, and if you are a dependent, another for a parent. In order to submit your FAFSA, your FSA ID will act as your digital signature.
  • All of your tax information from two years prior to the year you start college.
  • Your parents’ tax information from two years prior to the year you start college. (Not sure which parent to choose? See “What do I do if my parents are divorced or separated?” below.)
  • Your Social Security number.

What is the FAFSA deadline?

To be considered for priority funding at Cornell College, you will need to complete your FAFSA by March 1. The FAFSA opens Oct. 1, and you may use your 2015 tax information to file for financial assistance for fall 2017.

What do I need to know about recent changes to the FAFSA?

FAFSA is making an effort to make filing for financial assistance easier on families by accepting tax returns from the year two years previous to the enrollment year. That means you will use 2015 taxes when you submit your FAFSA in 2016 for the 2017 school year. Take a look at this Prior Prior Year worksheet for more information.

How do I make sure that Cornell receives my FAFSA?

Cornell College’s Title IV Code is 001856.  Be sure we are listed as one of your schools and we will receive the results electronically.

Helpful hints on how to fill out the form

On the FAFSA, who is “you” referring to?

On this form, the words "you" and "your" always mean the student, even when the student is dependent on his/her family for financial resources. (Yes, they really are asking if you, the student, have your own real estate investments.)

Will I need to include my parents’ financial information?

If you are less than 24 years old, you are considered "dependent" for financial aid purposes and will need to include your parents’ financial information. There are only a few exceptions to this rule. If you are under 24 and think that you should be considered independent, check step three of the FAFSA application for more details.

What do I do if my parents are divorced or separated?

If your parents have divorced or separated, provide information about the parent you lived with the most during the past 12 months. “Marital status of parent” refers to the status of the parent you live with. This means that if you live with a biological parent and a stepparent, you need to include the information for the biological parent and stepparent with whom you live.

Do not leave the questions about parent name, Social Security Number, and date of birth blank. If this information is blank or incorrect, your FAFSA will be rejected at the federal level.

Who do I include in my “household size”?

If you are dependent on your parents, household refers to anyone who depends on your parents (for separated parents, see question above). Include:

  • Yourself
  • Your parents
  • Siblings who receive more than ½ of their support from your parents
    • Include siblings under age 24 who live with your parents
    • Include siblings under age 24 who will be attending college during the same year for which you are completing the FAFSA
  • Other dependents who receive more than ½ of their support from your parents

What if I am applying to more than one school?

If you are applying for federal student aid at more than one school, answer enrollment questions according to your plans for your first-choice college. Be sure to include the school code for all schools you would like to receive your FAFSA results.  Cornell’s code is 001856.

What is considered full time/half time/ etc.?

  • Full time: 12 hours or more (9 or more hours for Graduate or Professional Students)
  • Three-quarters time: 9 - 11 hours
  • Half time: 6 - 8 hours
  • Less than half-time: 1- 5 hours
  • Not enrolled: 0 hours 

Most students at Cornell College are full-time students. With Cornell College’s One Course At A Time, a full-time student takes 4 blocks/semester.

What if I need to make a correction to my FAFSA?

Errors can delay the processing of your FAFSA, but once corrected, you can still be eligible for federal student aid.

We highly recommend that you complete your FAFSA online, as the online form has automatic error checks that can help reduce mistakes that cause delays.

One common error is giving the wrong social security information. Check and double check that you have entered your social security number correctly. It is also important that you use your proper name as it appears on your Social Security card.

Using your FSA ID, you can make changes online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. When the changes have been processed, you and the colleges you list will receive a corrected Student Assistance Report.

I am a veteran or the dependent of a veteran.  What should I be doing differently?

You should be in touch with the Office of Financial Planning and Assistance right away so they can help you navigate the necessary forms that are needed to process any VA claims you are eligible for.  Pam Perry is the VA certifying official and she will happily walk you through the process.  She can be reached at pperry@cornellcollege.edu or 319-895-4216. 

Please note that you should file the FAFSA no matter what benefits you anticipate so you receive any federal aid you are eligible for, such as the Federal Pell Grant.

What should I do if we have special circumstances that were not indicated on the FAFSA?

Please submit the special circumstances form.

Common financial questions

What if my parents make less money than they did at the time they last filed taxes?

If there is a significant change in your family’s financial situation, you may submit a special circumstance form. The request must be in writing and should explain what changes have occurred. The request should contain specific changes (dollar amounts, dates, etc.) along with documentation to verify the request.

What if my parent has a tax-deferred pension plan?

Enter the total amount your parent paid to their (and, if married, their spouse’s) tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans.  These may be paid directly or withheld from earnings- check for both. These amounts are reported on the W-2 form in boxes 12a through 12d, codes D, E, F, G, H, and S. Don’t include amounts reported in code DD (employer contributions toward employee health benefits).

What do I do when the FAFSA asks income questions that do not apply to me?

All income information must be completed. Use "0" for any items that do not apply to you.

What should I do if I or my parents have filed a tax extension?

If you or your parent has been granted a tax filing extension, please provide the following:

  • A copy of your IRS Form 4868.
  • A copy of all W-2 forms.
  • If self-employed, a signed statement with the amount of your Adjusted Gross Income and U.S. income taxes paid.

Once your tax returns are complete, please use the IRS Date Retrieval Tool or submit a copy of your federal tax transcript to the Office of Financial Assistance.

What should I do if I have amended my tax return?

Students or parents who file an amended return cannot use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

Instead, you will need to provide the following documents:

  • A signed copy of the IRS Form 1040X that was filed and
  • A copy of the tax transcript from the IRS.

We were selected for verification. What does this mean?

The federal processor selects students for verification randomly. You simply need to make sure you have used the IRS Data retrieval system available on the FAFSA or submit IRS tax transcripts for yourself and your parent. We also require the Federal  Verification Worksheet, which you can acquire through our office. Your financial assistance counselor will compare these documents with the FAFSA you completed.

Interpreting the Student Assistance Report and my financial assistance award

My Student Assistance Report said I do not qualify for a Pell Grant. Does this mean I will not receive any financial assistance?

No. It simply means you did not qualify for a high-need-based federal grant. You will still be considered for other types of assistance, including college grants.

Is my EFC what I owe the college?

No. The estimated family contribution (EFC) is only an estimate. Depending on the costs of your education and the amount of your financial assistance award, you could owe more or less than the calculated EFC.

What happens if I receive my financial assistance award and it is not enough to allow me to attend Cornell?

The first thing to do is to contact us. The Financial Assistance staff will be able to tell you whether additional loans and/or scholarship opportunities are available.

Can I expect my award to change after the first year?

We try to keep awards consistent from year to year. However, if there are significant changes to a family's resources, the award may be affected.

Is there a payment plan available?

Yes, Business Services at Cornell offers a financial assistance payment plan. You will be receiving detailed information over the summer on how to set up a payment plan. There are also Federal Parent Loans available to assist you with financing your education.

Where can we find more information about private scholarships?

Private scholarships are excellent resources for students and can be found in a variety of places.  We've done our best to compile and simplify the information on our scholarships.

Other helpful resources