Applying for Financial Aid
The Office of Student Financial Aid at Southwestern University is committed to providing superior service to our students, and to fair and equitable treatment in awarding financial aid. We are pleased to know that you have chosen SU and would like to help you in meeting the costs of attending college.
For an overview of the application process, view the “7 Easy Steps to the FAFSA” tutorial.
You must complete this application for each academic year to determine your eligibility to participate in federal, state, and institutional grant and loan programs. The FAFSA is available beginning January 1 preceding the academic year. An academic year generally consists of a fall, spring and summer term. The 2013 – 2014 FAFSA establishes eligibility for Fall 2013, Spring 2014 and Summer 2014.
When is the best time to file the 2013-2014 FAFSA?
Now! Students should plan to file the FAFSA as early as possible in January or early February. Certain state and institutional funds use a “first-come, first-served” methodology, based on the FAFSA processing date, to allocate limited funds.
Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool
It is advisable to complete the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. If time does not permit, the second best option is to use information from a completed tax return. However, if the student or parent, if applicable, tax return cannot be completed in time to ensure meeting the March 1 deadline, you can use estimated tax information. Even though you will have to update the tax information later, the original FAFSA processing date will be used for the deadline.
What are the best practices for reporting tax information on FAFSA?
- Plan to have the required 2012 tax returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) early, January or February if possible.
- Utilize the FAFSA IRS Data Retrieval Tool, if eligible, to report federal tax information.
- Use the completed tax return data if your taxes are complete but haven’t been filed/processed by the IRS.
- Estimating tax information is acceptable but will need to be updated if the data originally reported has changed.
- Carefully review the FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR) for accuracy of reported information.
What are some of the common application errors to avoid?
- Report only whole dollar amounts; do not include cents.
- Be sure to report student and parent earnings from work.
- Take care not to report parent income information in the student section.
- Do not report the value of the family’s primary residence.
- Don’t forget a parent and the student need to sign the FAFSA using their FAFSA PINs.
- Accurately report all names, dates-of-birth and Social Security Numbers on the FAFSA.
FAFSA IRS Data Retrieval Tool
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is a feature that helps streamline the FAFSA by allowing online FAFSA filers to securely pull tax data directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is scheduled to be available for use beginning February 3, 2013.
What are the advantages to using the retrieval tool?
- The retrieval tool simplifies the application process.
- Increases the accuracy of your FAFSA information.
- Minimizes the documentation you may be required to submit to Southwestern.
How soon after filing 2012 federal taxes can the retrieval tool be used?
Electronically filed tax return information should be available online from the IRS site 1-2 weeks after the return has been filed. Data from paper tax returns will be available 6-8 weeks from the point of mailing them to the IRS.
This option is not available if:
- The marital status changed after December 31, 2012
- The filing status was married filing separately
- An amended return was filed
- A foreign tax return was filed
- A tax return was filed using a Tax ID Number (TIN)
- The home address on the FAFSA does not match the address on the tax return
How to Estimate Taxes
When completing the “Financial Information” sections on FAFSA, for both the student and parent sections, you will need to provide both your 2012 income and the amount of income tax paid. If you have not yet filed a 2012 tax return, there are a number of methods available to estimate “taxes paid.”
No change to income as compared to last year
If your income has not changed in the past year, the easiest way to estimate taxes is to use last year’s tax information.
Slight change to income as compared to last year
Use the FAFSA Income Estimator-When completing the FAFSA, indicate “I will file but have not yet completed my return.” You will then be given the option to utilize the FAFSA “Income Estimator.”
Alternatively, you can choose to calculate your own estimated taxes using these steps:
- Locate the “total tax” amount on your 2011 federal income tax return (line 55 on IRS Form 1040, line 35 on 1040A, line 10 on 1040EZ).
- Divide this number by your 2011 adjusted gross income (line 37 on IRS Form 1040, line 21 on 1040A, line 4 on 1040EZ).
- Multiply the resulting number by your estimate of 2012 adjusted gross income to arrive at your 2012 estimate of tax paid.
- You can also search for a website that has a free tax estimator.
Updating the FAFSA with Actual Tax Information
Once your 2012 taxes have been filed, you will need to update the information reported on FAFSA to reflect the actual information from your 2012 tax return. You should use the FAFSA correction process to update your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. If you are ineligible or choose not to use the retrieval process you may enter the updated tax information manually.
After the FAFSA…
Beginning in February, you will receive an e-mail from Southwestern within approximately 1-2 weeks after you complete the FAFSA, letting you know we’ve received your information, and in some cases, requesting additional documentation. If you do not receive our confirmation email, check your processing status on the FAFSA website. Our office will receive your information as long as our school code, 003620, is listed in the “School Selection” section. First Year Student Financial Award Notifications typically start going out in mid-February; Returning Student Notifications at the end of June.
If you have any questions about the application process please contact our office at (512) 863-1259 to speak to a counselor in the Financial Aid Office.