Applying for Need-Based Financial Aid

February 1 is the priority date for your family to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Because the FAFSA asks for specific information from your 2009 tax return, it may require that your family gather tax information much earlier than usual. However, to ensure full consideration for financial aid - scholarships, grants, loans and employment on campus - you need to apply now.

We have developed a list of recommendations to help families through the process. If you still have questions after you review the information, please contact us directly. We are happy to help you through the process.

Patty Hoban

Laura Collins


  1. I’m not sure I will qualify – why should I file a FAFSA?
  2. I plan to file a FAFSA – what do I need to know?
  3. Do I need to file my 2009 tax return before I can file the FAFSA?
  4. What if I don’t have all of my 2009 tax information before February 1?
  5. If my parents are divorced or separated, how do I report their information?
  6. Why do I need to file for financial aid now?

1. I’m not sure I will qualify – why should I file a FAFSA?

Before you decide not to file a FAFSA, make sure it is an informed decision. You should use an online financial aid calculator to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

The calculator is accurate and reflects how the federal need analysis will assess your family’s ability to pay. If your family contribution is calculated to be greater than $45,000, you are not likely to qualify for need-based financial aid at Willamette.

Filing a FAFSA does qualify you for the Stafford Loan Program. The federal government has made loans up to $5,500 available to first-year students and the only qualification you need to be eligible to borrow is filing the FAFSA.

Many families include a Stafford Loan as part of their plan to afford Willamette. It is a way that students can help with college costs, and also makes them financial stakeholders in their educations.

Choosing to borrow is, of course, a family decision. But you may wish to keep this option open by filing the FAFSA.

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2. I plan to file a FAFSA – what do I need to know?

The FAFSA is the only form that is required to apply for need-based financial aid from Willamette. It is most efficient to file your FAFSA online. Two things to remember as you file:

  • You and your parents will need to create a PIN, which you will use to “sign” your form electronically. Your form will not be processed without your electronic signature.
  • Make sure your social security number is accurate on your FAFSA. The Federal processor uses a matching process and if the SSN does not match, your form will not be processed.

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3. Do I need to file my 2009 tax return before I can file the FAFSA?

No, but you will need to gather most of the same information in order to complete the FAFSA by February 1. It might be helpful to begin to fill out your 1040 form even if you don’t intend to file your tax return until later. The FAFSA asks for data from specific lines of the 1040 form and having a “rough draft” will be very helpful to you. And, if you are owed a tax refund, you will be ready to file sooner and get your refund more quickly!

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4. What if I don’t have all of my 2009 tax information before February 1?

If you haven’t received statements from employers, banks or others by February 1, you will need to estimate some of your information--and that is OK. We will collect your tax return later to verify your data.

If you plan to file for a 2009 tax return extension, you still need to file your FAFSA by February 1. If you delay filing your FAFSA, Willamette’s financial aid resources may be expended by the time you provide your information.

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5. If my parents are divorced or separated, how do I report their information?

In case of divorce or separation, fill out the FAFSA with financial information from the parent you lived with the most during the last 12 months. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, give information about the parent who provided you the most financial support during the last 12 months.

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6. Why do I need to file for financial aid now?

First-year college applicants need to file early because it takes 3-4 weeks for us to receive your information from the federal processor, and then additional time to create your personal financial aid package and communicate it to you. We will make financial aid awards by April 1 which gives you about a month to compare offers and make a final decision by May 1, the National Candidate’s Reply Date. After your first year of college, the FAFSA renewal process is less complicated and happens later in the year.

The FAFSA form may be confusing and is certainly time-consuming, but don’t give up! You can’t qualify for a need-based financial aid package unless you apply. If you begin your form and have questions, please contact me or the financial aid staff. Our contact information is listed above. We look forward to working with you throughout the process.

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