College can be expensive!
Here is information on how to fund college so that you know your options when the time comes for you to make decision on how to fund your college degree.
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The FAFSA is the form you need to complete to determine and receive financial aid from the government, state, and institution to help you afford college.
The form requires personal, finances, and tax information from you and your family. You will need a parent or guardian to sign and complete the FAFSA with you.
Every year you attend college, you will need to complete the FAFSA a year prior.
Basic eligibility requirements are that you must:
- demonstrate financial need (for most programs);
- be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen;
have a valid Social Security number (with the exception of students from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau);
- be registered with Selective Service, if you’re a male (you must register between the ages of 18 and 25);
- be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program;
- be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for Direct Loan Program funds;
- maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school;
- sign the certification statement on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form
- completing a high school education in a homeschool setting approved under state law (or—if state law does not require a homeschooled student to obtain a completion credential—completing a high school education in a homeschool setting that qualifies as an exemption from compulsory attendance requirements under state law);
- or enrolling in an eligible career pathway program and meeting one of the “ability-to-benefit” alternatives described below.
Additional eligibility requirements can apply in certain situations including for non-U.S. citizens, students with criminal convictions, and students with intellectual disabilities.
Some federal student aid programs have their own eligibility criteria in addition to the general requirements listed above. Check with your college’s financial aid office if you have questions about a particular program.
- Create a FSA ID
- Compile Necessary Documents
- Provide Your Basic Personal Information
- Listing of Colleges and/or Career Schools
- Determine Your Dependency Status
- Input Parents’ Information
- Provide Financial Information
- Sign and Submit the FAFSA® Form
For more information and specific information on individual steps, visit this link.
- Watch “After the FAFSA®: What Happens Next?” Video
- Check the status of your application. Make Sure Your FAFSA® Form Was Processed.
- You can immediately check the status of your application after you submit the FAFSA online.
- The status of your application will be one of the following:
- Processed Successfully
- Missing Signatures
- Action Required
- If you submitted a paper FAFSA form, you can check its status after it has been processed (roughly 7–10 days from the date mailed).
- You can also contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center to find out if your FAFSA application was processed.
- Review Your Student Aid Report (SAR)
- If you have been selected for verification, complete verification
- Review your FAFSA and Correct Mistakes or Make Updates to Your FAFSA® Form
- Correct Mistakes
- Once your application has been processed, you can correct your FAFSA form online or on paper.
- Make Updates
- While most information cannot be changed on the FAFSA form, some information must be updated if it changes. Find out the difference and how to update FAFSA information.
- Correct Mistakes
- On your SAR, you might get a note saying you’ve been selected for verification; or your school might contact you to inform you that you’ve been selected. Verification is the process your school uses to confirm that the data reported on your FAFSA form is accurate. If you’re selected for verification, your school will request additional documentation that supports the information you reported.
- Don’t be afraid, you have not done anything wrong. Some people are selected for verification at random; and some schools verify all students’ FAFSA forms. The next steps you have to do is provide the documentation your school asks for—and be sure to do so by the school’s deadline, or you won’t be able to get financial aid.
- In some cases, your school may require you to submit an IRS tax transcript or a signed copy of your income tax return as part of the verification process.
- You can find your tax transcript through the IRS’s Get Transcript service at irs.gov/transcript.
- Scholarships are free funding/money. They do not need to be repaid. There are thousands of them and they are offered through various ways such as through high schools and colleges, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations.
- Many scholarships are criteria based, which you have to meet or exceed the criteria set in order to be eligible to apply for it. Some college scholarships are merit-based. Merit scholarships might be awarded based on academic achievement or on a combination of academics and a special talent, trait, or interest. There are scholarships that are based on financial need.
- Some scholarships are geared toward particular groups of people; for instance, there are scholarships for women of color or graduate students and some are based on the state or city where you live in. There are scholarships available because of where you or your parent(s) work, or because you come from a certain background, for example, military families.
- Scholarship amounts will vary. Some might be full tuition scholarships and cover the entire cost of your tuition, some might be a few hundred or thousand and be awarded by semester/yearly. And there are one-time award scholarships of a few hundred dollars or thousand.
- Scholarships are worth applying for, because it’ll help reduce the cost of your education.
Anyone can be eligible for scholarships since there are different requirements for each scholarship!
- There are many ways you can apply for scholarships, some scholarships are offered for application through the specific school, some are city scholarships, state scholarships, etc. Many can be found on scholarship search engines such as unigo, fastweb, and many others.
- Check out our list of compiled scholarships!
- Check out how you can find scholarships here.
- Grants are generally free financial funding from the federal government, the state, college or career school, a private or non-profit organization that help students to attend and afford higher education.
- Most types of grants, unlike loans, are sources of free money that generally do not have to be repaid.
- Make sure you research and apply for any grants you might be eligible for, and meet application deadlines!
- The U.S. Department of Education (ED) offers a variety of federal grants to students attending four-year colleges or universities, community colleges, and career schools. Some federal grants offered are:
- Different grant programs have specific eligibility requirements. Many grants’ eligibility is based on financial need.
- There are situations that may require a student to return and repay a portion or all of the grant funds. For example, if you withdraw from school before finishing an enrollment period such as a semester, or if you receive a TEACH Grant and do not complete your service obligation.
- Here is more information on when you may have to repay a grant. Please check with your specific institution on how to maintain eligibility for grants.
- You can apply for and are offered federal and state grants through the FAFSA. There are some state and specific school grants that you may have to separately and individually apply to outside of the FAFSA. Check with your institution on how to apply for specific grants you are interested in.
- Read about specific WI state grants eligibility and information here: http://www.heab.state.wi.us/programs.html
- Read about federal grants, eligibility, and how to apply here: https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/grants#types
- A loan is money you borrow and must pay back with interest.
- Student loans can be offered and taken out from different entities. Loans can come from the federal government, from private sources such as a bank or financial institution, or from other organizations. There are usually more benefits from loans made by the federal government, than loans from banks or other private sources. Learn more about the differences between federal and private student loans.
- If you apply for financial aid (the FAFSA), loans may be offered as part of your school’s financial aid offer.
- There are usually three type of federal loans offered to students applying to higher education:
- Direct subsidized loans
- Direct unsubsidized loans
- Direct PLUS loans
- Learn what these loans are here: https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/federal-loan-programs.pdf & https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/loans#types
- Usually students who have a gap in covering their cost of attendance to the school they are attending take out loans to cover that gap to afford attending the institution.
- Read about why you should take out federal student loans AND what you should consider when taking out loans.
- Read about how much you can take out in loans here.
- To apply for federal loans, you must complete and successfully submit the FAFSA. Your school/college will send how much loans they are offering you in their award package/letter and you will have the option to accept or decline the offered loans. The amount of loans offered to you will be varied for different reasons.
- For other loans, such as private loans, check with your lender to start and complete their process of application for loan.
Check out these specific WI State Loan Programs that might be applicable to you (scroll towards the bottom).
Here are the state of WI’s current loan programs:
- Minority Teacher Loan – UW System, Independent Colleges & Universities
- Nursing Student Loan – Wisconsin colleges & universities offering nursing degrees.
- Teacher Loan Program – UW System, Independent Colleges & Universities
- Teacher Of The Visually Impaired Loan – Colleges & universities offering programs for teachers of visually impaired students, located in Wisconsin or in an adjacent state (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan or Minnesota).
Read about how to apply for these loans and more information here (below scholarship info section).
Important Information You Should Know:
Eligibility for WI State Financial Aid
- Be a resident of the state of Wisconsin
Have a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent
- Be enrolled in an undergraduate degree or certificate program
- Be attending a non-profit college or university based in Wisconsin
- Male students seeking financial aid from the State of Wisconsin OR from the US Department of Education are required to register with the United States Selective Service System (SSS) https://www.sss.gov
Need-based state financial aid programs eligibility is determined using the data from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
WI Tuition Reciprocity Agreements
On the State of Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board webpage, they state, “Tuition reciprocity agreements reduce the cost of out-of-state tuition for Wisconsin residents attending specific schools in other states.”
In other words, you may be able to attend schools in other states, who have a reciprocity with WI, with an in-state tuition.
Wisconsin currently have these reciprocity agreements:
- Minnesota-Wisconsin Tuition Reciprocity. Here (scroll down to Tuition Reciprocity section) is more information on what schools are eligible.
- “The state has entered into education reciprocity agreements with community and technical colleges in Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa.” (WEAB). Here (scroll down to Tuition Reciprocity section) is more information for the following:
- Michigan Reciprocity Agreement
- Bay de Noc Community College, Escanaba, MI
- Gogebic Community College, Iron Mountain, MI
- Illinois Reciprocity Agreement
- College of Lake County, Grayslake, IL
- McHenry County College, Crystal Lake, IL
- Rock Valley College, Rockford, IL
- Iowa Reciprocity Agreement
- Northeast Iowa Community College, Calmar and Peosta, IA
- Michigan Reciprocity Agreement