The financial aid process can be a confusing endeavor. The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships is committed to making the financial aid process as transparent and understandable as possible. The information listed below will assist students and parents in making sense of the process. If you should have further questions, please feel free to contact us. All of our pertinent contact information is available on the bottom of this page.
Most students enrolled at Washington State University qualify for some form of financial aid. However, there are a few exceptions. In order to receive any state, federal, or institutional aid, you will need to satisfy the following requirements.
- Have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) Certificate, been in an approved Title IV eligible program prior to July 1, 2012, meet other standards your state establishes that are approved by the U.S. Department of Education, or complete a high school education in a home school setting that is treated as a home school or private school under state law. Please contact our office if you should have additional questions.
- Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student working toward a degree in an eligible program (i.e., associate's, bachelor's, or graduate programs). Private loans are available for certificate programs.
- Be an United States Citizen or eligible non-citizen.
- Have a valid Social Security number.
- Certify that you will only use financial aid for educational purposes.
- Certify that you are not in default on a federal student loan and that you do not owe money on a federal grant.
- Register with the Selective Service (if required).
Please note that certain programs like the Administrator Credential program are ineligible for financial aid due to the inherent structure of the program.
One of the most misunderstood and frequently asked questions in the financial aid process is that of dependency. It is important to understand that students are classified as independent/dependent in terms of financial aid eligibility separate from any other criteria. The United States Department of Education has set strict criteria for determining dependency status. A student must meet one the following criteria to be considered independent:
Independency Criteria for 2013-2014
You'll be considered independent if at least one of the following applies to you:
- You were born before January 1st, 1990.
- You're married (or separated but not divorced).
- You are or will be enrolled in a Master's or Doctorate program (beyond a bachelor's degree) at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
- You have children who receive more than half their support from you.
- You have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half their support from you and will continue to receive more than half their support from you through June 30, 2014.
- At any time since you turned 13, both of your parents were deceased, you were in foster care or you were a dependent or ward of the court.
- At any time on or after July 1, 2012, you were homeless. See FAFSA application for more detail.
- You're a veteran of the U.S. Armed Services. (A "veteran" includes students who attended a U.S. Service Academy and who were released under a condition other than dishonourable. For more details on who is considered a veteran, see the explanatory notes on the FAFSA).
In unusual cases, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships can determine that a student who doesn't meet the above criteria should be treated as an independent student. Your dependency status may be changed through a professional judgment by our office based upon sufficient documentation of your special circumstances. Steps to complete the Independency Appeal process are listed here.
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
The first step for all students is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or more commonly known as the FAFSA. This process is described in-depth at the following link located here. The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at Washington State University encourages every eligible student to apply for a FAFSA, even if you don't expect to be awarded anything. Many scholarships require a FAFSA to be filed even though they do not require the demonstration of financial need. Additionally, filing the FAFSA provides for options later in the semester in case of emergency. There are many instances of students coming to our office requesting emergency loan funding only to be further delayed as they have not completed a FAFSA.
A Couple of Important Points Regarding the FAFSA
Priority Deadline: February 15th
School code: 003800
Please note that while our Priority Filing deadline for the FAFSA is February 15th, we will not load student FAFSAs into our internal system until early March. Until the FAFSAs are loaded, we are unable to see information such as Expected Family Contribution (EFC) or other important details regarding a student's status.
- Scholarship Application
The University uses a general scholarship application for its primary method of awarding scholarships. The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships encourages everyone to file this scholarship application. Scholarship donors look for a number of specific traits and characteristics, it is highly likely that you are eligible for multiple opportunities. For more information, please visit the the scholarships page here. The application is located directly at the following link here.
A Couple of Important Points regarding the Scholarship Application
Absolute Deadline: January 31st
The application is located on an external website - if you have questions/problems with the actual application, please contact the support options on the ApplyWeb site.
- Preliminary Awards
Once the OFAS have received your student aid report (SAR) from the Department of Education, we can begin the awarding process. Based upon the information you provided on the FAFSA, we can begin to build a financial aid award for you. To assist incoming students making their choice for their University selection, our office mails out this preliminary award notification in March (assuming that we've already received your FAFSA and information by our priority deadline). We now also send preliminary award notifications to returning students to assist them with their decisions as well.
The Department of Education requires that we verify a certain percentage of our financial aid applicants information to ensure accuracy and quality assurance. We may ask to see verifying documents such as tax returns, or require completion of forms regarding tax exempt income or family size. This verification process needs to be completed before any aid is released. Verification documents are most typically requested in mid-March. Students and parents should submit these forms early as the timeframe for paperwork review as Fall semester approaches can often reach 4+ weeks. Every year, students are forced to wait weeks to receive their financial aid as they have not submitted their verification paperwork until days prior to the start of the semester.
Important: OFAS will request verification information by mail, most often delivered with a student's Preliminary or Final award letter. The required verification forms are also listed on the student's zzusis account under Finances -> Financial Aid To-Do list. As always, students should contact the OFAS if there are questions regarding the requested information.
- Final Awards
The last major step of the financial aid process is the Final Award letter. These letters typically are mailed in early June, listing your current awards and giving you the opportunity to return the letter to accept your aid. You can see sample award letters here. You can also accept your aid over the phone, email, or in-person in the office.
- Revised Awards
Any time your financial aid award changes, we will send you a Revised Award notification. Your financial aid award can change for many reasons, including special circumstance appeals, file review procedures, the addition of a scholarship, or availability in funding. It is our policy to revise undisbursed loans and work-study amounts first before adjusting any grants or scholarship funding to ensure that our students receive the best possible award package. Please note that awards can change at any time during the year. The award listed on zzusis is the most up-to-date summary of your financial aid package available.
- Loan Acceptance
One of the most confusing aspects of the financial aid process for first time recipients is the loan acceptance process. Students are required to complete entrance counseling as well as completing a Master Promissory Note. Students may have to complete this process several times their first semester if they are receiving multiple types of loans. A detailed description including step-by-step instructions is listed here.
Aid is typically delivered on the first day of class in both Fall and Spring Semesters (assuming the student has completed their paperwork and loan acceptance steps prior). For information on Summer session delivery dates, please click here. The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships encourages students to setup and use direct deposit. More information regarding the disbursement of aid is given below.
Reading Your Award Letter
Most students are sent two award letters.
Preliminary Award letter: This is sent out to new students, freshman and transfers, in order to give them notice of their financial aid eligibility. Typically, this letter is sent out in Mid-March to ensure that students have proper information to make a decision regarding enrollment. This letter is only sent to students for the academic year (Fall/Spring) and will only be sent to students who have filed their FAFSA prior to the Priority Filing date.Sample Preliminary Award Letter
(click image to expand)
Students can return their preliminary award letter to our office to let the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships know whether to continue processing their aid. If a student has decided not to attend WSU, they can also use the preliminary award letter to let us know that we can cancel their aid awards.
Final Award letter: This is sent out to all prior to their term of enrollment. If a student is enrolling in the Fall/Spring academic year, this award letter is sent out in the summer (assuming that the student has met the priority FAFSA deadline). If a student is enrolling for summer, the final award letter will be mailed in March.
The final award letter can be used to accept and/or reject awards. Students can cross out awards that they do not want to accept and reduce the amounts of loans awarded. By signing the back of the form and returning to our office, the aid listed which has not been modified by the student will be accepted and processed by our Office.
The award letter is often split in two components for dependent undergraduates, as shown in the first example above. Student Assistance contains awards that are directly given to or borrowed by the student enrolled. Examples of Student Assistance include Pell grants, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, and Work-Study. The other section of the award letter is Parent Assistance and this most often includes Parent PLUS Loans. The distinction is important as many students and parents are confused. Parents must accept, and successfully complete the Parent PLUS Loan application for their student to receive that part of their financial aid award.
For more information regarding the types of aid available and those listed on your award letter, please visit the Types of Aid section on the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships web site.
Disbursement and Delivery of Aid
Typically, aid for the academic year will disburse in two separate disbursements with one half going to Fall and Spring semesters respectively. For information regarding summer aid delivery, please consult the Summer Aid page. This summary details the delivery process for the typical student - changes in enrollment status or late submission of required information can easily change the situation. Please contact our office or Student Accounts if you should have any questions regarding the process.
Crediting of Financial Aid to Student Accounts
Once the student has completed the financial aid process and has resolved any holds or eligibility issues, the awarded financial aid is requested and once received, is ready to disburse to the student's account at University Receivables. Due to Federal law, aid cannot be credited to the account prior to the first day of the term (please note that aid will only release on the first day of the term if the funds have been received from the university and all holds are released, if this does not occur by the first day of the term - the funds will then release the next business day after the issue has been resolved).
All financial aid funds (excluding work-study funds) are first applied to the student's tuition/fee bill, then to any Housing charges (if applicable), and lastly to any miscellaneous fees owed to the University (if the form Authorization to Apply Financial Aid to All Charges has been signed and submitted.) When these charges are paid in full, the remainder of the financial aid award (if any) is refunded to the student in the form of a check or direct deposit. These funds may be used by the student at their discretion.
Please be aware that Student Accounts no longer physically hands out checks to students. All checks will be mailed to the student's Primary Mailing address as listed on zzusis. The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships highly recommends that students enroll in direct deposit. Please keep in mind that the funds are disbursed not by Financial Aid but by Student Accounts. Please contact them directly if you have any questions regarding your account, direct deposit, or check.
Please note that Work-Study is not disbursed like other types of aid. Work-Study is disbursed through WSU Payroll in the form of paychecks from your employer. Typically, WSU issues payroll on the 10th and 25th of each month, although these dates can change.
Pursuing a Graduate Certificate?
Graduate certificate programs are not eligible for federal aid.
International students are not eligible for federal, state, and institutional loans and grants. International students are eligible to receive scholarships. More information is available from International Programs.