The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Frequently Asked Questions

The FAFSA is an acronym for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  This is a financial aid form used to determine your eligibility for financial aid from the Federal Government. This includes grants, loans and work-study. Also, the form is used by many states, colleges and universities to determine eligibility for their financial aid programs. The FAFSA is completed annually.

Go to www.fafsa.gov to file your FAFSA today.

Every student should file the FAFSA. Your student needs to file the FAFSA to receive federal, state, or institutional aid, as well as many tuition credits.

Once your student submits the FAFSA, the school will determine the student's eligibility for financial aid.

UMass Amherst's priority deadline for filing the FAFSA is March 1.  The state deadline for Massachusetts is May 1.

If you have forgotten to file the FAFSA and it is past these dates, file it now!  You may still qualify for financial aid.

When the student is awarded, it is assumed that the award will be accepted.  If the student is a first-time borrower, he/she will need to complete the promissory note and entrance counseling.

Everything the student needs to do for the award to disburse will be posted on his/her To Do List in SPIRE. 

If the loans have not disbursed, the student can decline or reduce the loans on SPIRE by clicking on the Reduce/Decline Award button.

If the loan has already disbursed to the Bursar account, the student will need to complete a Loan/Work Study Change Request Form on the Forms section of this site.  The student may be required to have the charges covered before Financial Aid Services will cancel the loan.

There are a number of factors that may cause the FAFSA to be selected for verification. Thirty percent of FAFSAs are selected. It is possible that there was a mistake made on the FAFSA, or it may have been selected randomly. If your student's FAFSA is selected, make sure the student completes all requests on the To Do List on SPIRE. 

IRS tax return transcripts are the official transcripts of your tax return.  We cannot accept a copy of your tax return because it does not prove that you have filed your taxes.

You can get your tax return transcripts at www.irs.gov/Individuals/Get-Transcript. You may order them by mail or create an account to access them immediately.

Go to the Forms section of this site.  Fill out the Parent PLUS Pre-Application Form and submit it to Financial Aid Services.  Allow approximately 1-2 weeks for a credit decision.

If the credit is approved, you will be required to complete the Parent PLUS Master Promissory Note on www.studentloans.gov.

If the credit is denied, you will have the option to appeal the credit decision, obtain an endorser, or your student can accept additional unsubsidized loan.

The FAFSA is used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. This includes Federal Pell Grant, Federal student loans and work-study opportunities. In addition, the FAFSA is used to determine eligibility for nonfederal student aid and various scholarships offered by your state and the university, as well as many tuition credits. You should file a renewal FAFSA each year before the priority filing date.

The priority deadline to file your FAFSA is March 1.  You must submit a FAFSA every year to be considered for financial aid.

There will be no change to the admissions process or deadlines. The change allows students and their families to file the FAFSA starting on October 1st using tax data from the previous year.  For example, students applying for Fall 2018 admission can file the FAFSA on October 1, 2017 using tax information from 2016.

Prior Year refers to the tax year used for the FAFSA. This allows students to submit their FAFSA in October by using tax information from the year prior to their enrollment. For example, a student enrolling in fall 2018 will submit the FAFSA using 2016 tax information. In the past, the student had the added challenge of estimating tax information so that the form could be submitted by school’s deadlines. With Prior Year, there is no need to estimate, you can use your already filed tax return.

You will have the opportunity to request a review of the change to your financial situation. We refer to this as a special circumstance review.

It will be one less thing on your list of things to do. It will also give you an opportunity to correct any errors and submit additional documents that might be needed. Applying early may give you the information you need to make informed decisions about financial planning and college selection.

It is always a good idea to get the FAFSA submitted as soon as possible. It gives you an opportunity to correct any errors and respond to any document requests, if there are any. Also, you don’t know what you may qualify for so let the school review your information to determine your eligibility.

Filing the FAFSA late may impact the amount of financial aid available. Some financial aid funding is limited, so the earlier you apply the more likely awards will be available if you qualify. But it is better to file it late than not at all.

The admissions office will use the information you provided through the application process to determine your eligibility for scholarships. There are a few scholarships available to transfer students that will require a separate application.

There are several factors in determining financial aid awards that may not be available in time to send the award with your acceptance letter. We are working on gather all the necessary information so that your award can be mailed out as quickly as possible. As soon as information is available we will update the financial aid office homepage with our projected date to begin awarding. Students who are returning for a subsequent year will continue to receive their award letters in the summer months. This is because their academic progress must be reviewed by Financial Aid Services before awards can be made.

YES! You must use 2016 tax and income information when filing your 2018-2019 FAFSA.

No. The Department of Education has determined which year’s tax information is provided for each academic year.

Any time that a family’s financial situation has changed from the base year information provided on the FAFSA, you can submit an appeal. We recommend contacting the financial aid office about the appeal prior to submitting it.

Yes! Using prior year taxes means that almost all families will have filed taxes when the FAFSA becomes available.

If your family has experienced unemployment, divorce, a reduction in income for other reasons, or if other special circumstances exist contact the financial aid office. The staff will work with your to document the changes to your family income situation and make changes to your FAFSA if necessary.