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FINANCIAL AID PROCESS

 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Need help with the FAFSA?

Call the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN) for free help: 877-272-4692. ICAN will schedule an appointment for you at their Council Bluffs office located in the Enrollment Services Office at Iowa Western Community College. Start to work on the FAFSA after October 1st. To see what you will need to complete the FAFSA, click here.


Student Financial Aid

Student financial aid can include any or all of the following:

  • Grants & Scholarships - money that students are not required to pay back
  • Work Study - jobs on a college campus in which the student works and receives wages which can be applied to their college costs
  • Student Loans - loans which can be used to finance a student's education; a major source of loans come from the federal government through its student loan program

Why complete the FAFSA?

1. To qualify for federal and state financial aid programs based on need.
2. To be eligible for a federal Stafford student loan regardless of need or income.
3. Some colleges want a FAFSA filed before they distribute their own financial aid.
4. Some scholarships require page one of the Student Aid Report to be included with scholarship materials. The Student Aid Report is generated by completing the FAFSA.
5. The FAFSA is free and it can possibly yield positive benefits. With some assistance and organization, it is not difficult to complete.
6. If a parent employment status would change due to illness or loss of job, it is nice to have filed a FAFSA for financial aid assistance.
7. You never know for sure what your financial aid status is until you complete the FAFSA.

Basic Information on Financial Aid

1.  Apply to colleges - Students will need to apply and be accepted to the college or colleges of their choice. Once accepted to the college, students will be able to complete financial aid information to be sent to the college through the FAFSA.

2. Apply for a PIN from the federal PIN website - The PIN is an electronic means to sign the FAFSA form. The student will need a PIN and one parent will need a PIN.

3. File the FAFSA - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the basic federal government form for students to file to apply for financial aid. It is required to be filed for most federal and state sources of financial aid including federally subsidized student loans. The FAFSA cannot be filed until after October 1st of a calendar year in which a student will attend the next academic year including while a student is in college. The FAFSA may be filed electronically over the Internet or in paper form. The electronic form is the most popular way to file the FAFSA. The FAFSA website is located at www.fafsa.ed.gov. The student will need to list the colleges that they are considering attending in the FAFSA.

4. Receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) - After filing the FAFSA, a student and parent will receive a SAR. The SAR is a listing of all the information that was entered in the FAFSA. If an e-mail address is entered in the FAFSA, the SAR will be sent by e-mail. If not, a paper copy of the SAR will be sent to the student and parent. It is important to check the SAR for any errors in information and if found, can be corrected in the FAFSA electronically or by contacting the college financial aid office of the student. It is important to keep the SAR in case any information is needed later.

5. Verification - Colleges are required by the federal government to verify a percentage of their students' FAFSAs. This may be a random check or some colleges may actually verify all of their students FAFSA numbers. If this happens to you, you are not under suspicion of doing something wrong, it is just a requirement that colleges have to go through. Just follow the directions that that college sends to you, and the process should be fairly easy to complete.

6. Review the financial aid award letter(s) - In the spring (March to early May), students will receive a financial aid award letter from the colleges which they have been admitted and where the student's FAFSA information has been sent. Students and parents need to evaluate the financial aid package and decide if they are willing to accept that package from the particular college.

7. Sign and return the financial aid award letter - If the student and parent is willing to accept the financial aid package offered from the college, then it needs to be signed and sent back to the college. This does not commit the student to attend the college, but if the student does attend, they will attend under this financial aid package.

8. Questions - Questions about financial aid are best directed to the financial aid office of the student's college. This office has the final authority in ruling on financial aid questions involving the student's situation.  

9. Change in financial aid situation - If a student's financial aid situation changes drastically after filing the FAFSA (i.e. parent losing a job or parent becoming ill or disabled and cannot work), contact the college financial aid office to see if they will do a professional judgment to compensate for the student's financial situation.  

10. Check eligibility for State of Iowa student aid programs - Students need to do the eligibility wizard that is available to check on eligibility for State of Iowa student aid programs and to complete the Iowa Financial Aid Application if eligible. To access the wizard and the Iowa Financial Aid Application go to the Iowa College Aid Commission website.

11. Reminder - Students will need to complete the FAFSA and the financial aid process for each year that they are in college.