Complete Financial Aid
Financial aid consists of scholarships, grants, loans and work-study employment opportunities that are available to help students pay for the cost of attending college.
- Gift aid does not have to be repaid and does not require a work commitment on the part of the student. Grants and scholarships are examples of gift aid.
- Self‑help aid requires either repayment or a work commitment on the part of the student. Loans and work-study are examples of self-help aid.
- Need-based aid is awarded to students who demonstrate financial need by providing documentation of insufficient personal and family resources to cover the costs of college.
- Merit-based aid is awarded to students who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement or special talent in the performing arts, athletics or other areas.
Applying for Financial Aid
The first step in applying for financial aid is understanding what’s required for each college you’re applying to. Check the financial aid page of the college’s website to learn:
- What financial aid application(s) you need to complete, like FAFSA, CASFA, CSS Profile, or an institutional aid application,
- The priority deadline to submit your application.
Understanding Which Financial Aid Application You Should Complete
For most colleges, the financial aid application(s) you need to complete is determined by whether you are eligible for federal student aid.
Generally, you are eligible for federal aid if you are a U.S. citizen, Legal Permanent Resident, or eligible non-citizen. If you are eligible for federal aid, be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year. Your college may also require you to complete an additional financial aid application, like the CSS Profile.
If you are not eligible for federal aid, check with your college to see which application you should complete. New this year, many Colorado colleges are using the Colorado Application for State Financial Aid (CASFA), which is an online application similar to the FAFSA. Other colleges may require you to complete the CSS Profile or the college’s own aid application.
The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the primary form that the federal government, states and colleges use to award financial aid. Students need to submit the FAFSA every year to continue to be considered for financial aid.
The FAFSA is available every year on October 1 and students are encouraged to submit it soon thereafter. Families can use their prior-prior year tax information to complete the FAFSA. That means students graduating in June 2021 will use 2019 tax information to complete the 2021-22 form. This allows families to file the FAFSA before they file their previous year’s taxes.
The first step in filling out the FAFSA is creating a Federal Student Aid ID. This username-password combination will allow you to fill out the FAFSA online and access information about your financial aid. If you’re a dependent student, your parent or guardian will need his or her own FSA ID. You can create this now, but don’t forget it! Take a picture, write it down and memorize it, you will need to use your FSA ID every year you submit the FAFSA.
Please feel free to use the DSF Scholarship Directory to research thousands of local, regional and national scholarships. Continue reading to learn more information about the FAFSA and financial aid.
The CASFA, or Colorado Application for State Financial Aid, is an online application that the Colorado Department of Higher Education provides so that Colorado public colleges can award financial aid, including state grants and work-study, to students who are not eligible for federal student aid, but meet the requirements for Colorado residency (also know as ASSET students).
- Students who are eligible for federal student aid should complete FAFSA, not CASFA.
- International students and students who don’t meet the Colorado residency requirements may complete CASFA to qualify for institutional aid.
- Students do not need to have a Social Security Number to complete CASFA.
IMPORTANT: CASFA is new for 2021-22, so there are still some bugs to work out. Currently, you can’t return to your CASFA to make changes once you have submitted it, so please make sure you review all of your information and make sure it’s correct before you submit. If you do need to make changes later, you’ll need to contact the financial aid offices of the colleges you listed on CASFA.
If you have questions about CASFA, please contact the financial aid office at the colleges you’re applying. If you’re having technical issues with CASFA, contact 303-862-3001 or at email@example.com.
Check out this CASFA guide from MSU Denver – it’s helpful no matter what college you plan to attend.
Students attending public colleges or universities in Colorado must complete the ASSET affidavit to be eligible for in-state tuition and state financial aid through the ASSET program. Learn more about Colorado residency here, or visit ciccoloradoasset.org/ or talk to your college’s Office of Financial Aid to learn more about the requirements and application process for ASSET.
Completing Your Financial Aid Requirements
Use one of these short worksheets to help you make sure your financial aid requirements are complete by the July 15 DSF deadline.
Not a DSF scholarship applicant? These worksheets will still help guide you through questions you can ask about your financial aid requirements.
Help with FAFSA or CASFA
The first step in the financial aid process is to complete the 2021-22 FAFSA (fafsa.gov) or CASFA ( both are available beginning October 1).
Submit your FAFSA or CASFA by your college’s priority deadline to ensure that you qualify for all possible state, federal, and institutional aid.
Due to the Covid pandemic, DSF will be providing virtual support for FAFSA completion. If you’re attending a high school with a DSF Future Center or are supported by a DSF Campus Advisor at your college, reach out to your DSF Advisor for details about FAFSA support. Unfortunately, DSF will not be offering a community workshop this year.
Support with Completing FAFSA or CASFA
Check with your college’s financial aid office for help with completing the FAFSA or CASFA. Many financial aid offices offer FAFSA and CASFA completion workshops and drop-in help.
The Educational Opportunity Center offers FAFSA completion help to residents of Denver. They have a location at the Community College of Denver (you do not need to be a CCD student or plan to attend CCD) and around the Denver metro area. To learn more or schedule an appointment, visit ccd.edu/org/educational-opportunity-center (scroll down to “Find an Office Near You & Schedule an Appointment”).
College Financial Aid Priority Deadline
Your college may have a priority deadline for financial aid. This means that you need to get your FAFSA, CASFA, or other aid application in by that date to be considered for the most money. If you can’t find the priority deadline for your college, call your financial aid office or visit their website.
Do I Need to Submit FAFSA or CASFA Proof to DSF?
No. In the past, DSF applicants were asked to submit proof that they completed FAFSA by April 1 if they were eligible for federal student aid. For the 2021-22 academic year, DSF has changed its requirements and no longer requires applicants to submit FAFSA or CASFA proof. However, it is still important that you complete your financial aid application (FAFSA, CASFA, or other aid app) by your college’s priority deadline to ensure that you qualify for all possible state, federal, and institutional aid.
Financial Aid Videos
Click on the links below to view video tutorials on getting ready for FAFSA/CASFA and completing your financial aid application.
- Your Financial Aid To-Do List
- Your Financial Aid Timeline
- Have your financial circumstances changed since completing your FAFSA/CASFA?
- How to use a scanner app on your phone (useful when you need to upload documents to your financial aid office)
- How to print and mail a FAFSA signature page (useful if your parent can’t create an FSA ID and needs to sign your FAFSA)
More videos, from Federal Student Aid:
Tax Verification Resources & IRS Forms
If your college is asking for verification of your tax information in order to complete your financial aid requirements for federal student aid eligibility (FAFSA), you have the option of using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool or obtaining your IRS Tax Return Transcripts. Use the information below to obtain your tax information.
IRS Data Retrieval Tool
Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on your FAFSA is the fastest and easiest way for you to provide your tax information to your college.
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool links directly to IRS records to transfer tax and income information for students and parents directly to the FAFSA. Using the IRS Match makes the FAFSA easier to complete, and simplifies follow up steps with your college. Once you use the IRS Match to transfer information to your FAFSA, do not change the information that was transferred to your FAFSA from the IRS.
To increase the likelihood that a match will be found when using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool:
- Enter name and address information EXACTLY as it is shown on the tax return
- If married, filing jointly, use the primary filer’s information
- Wait at least 2 weeks after e-filing your federal income tax return, or 4-8 weeks after submitting taxes by mail
If you could not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when you first completed your FAFSA because taxes were recently filed, log into your online FAFSA account after your Student Aid Report is available and use the tool to update the tax information for yourself and/or your parents.
- Log into your FAFSA account at fafsa.gov.
- Click on the link “Make FAFSA Corrections” if you previously completed a FAFSA.
- Then click on a tab on the top of your FAFSA that says “Financial Information.”
- On the “Financial Information” page, click on “Link to IRS.”
- This will take you away from your FAFSA account and link you directly to an IRS page where you will enter personal information (and you will need to do all of this a second time if you are doing both student and parent retrieval). Make sure you spell your name and street address exactly as they appear on your 1040 federal tax return.
- After you enter your personal information, follow the directions to “Submit” and then “Transfer” your IRS tax data to your FAFSA.
- Make sure to go to the last page of your FAFSA to sign and re-submit the FAFSA.
Students and parents are not eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool if any of the following apply:
- A married independent applicant and spouse filed separate tax returns
- Parents of a dependent student filed separate tax returns
- The parents are married and filed as Head of Household
- Parents enter all zeroes for Social Security Number (SSN) on FAFSA
- Any student or parent with a change in marital status since filing 2019 taxes
- Any student or parent who indicates they have not already filed a tax return or will not file a tax return
Note: If you are unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, see “IRS Tax Return Transcript.”
Ordering Your IRS Tax Return Transcript, IRS Verification of Non-Filing, or Other IRS Documents
If you are unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you may need to request your IRS Tax Return Transcript. Please allow plenty of time for the IRS to fulfill your request! Processing times have been slow due to the Covid pandemic.
IMPORTANT: The IRS is very picky about how forms are completed. Don’t cross off or white out any information, because the IRS will reject your form. Instead, try to fill in the form on the computer and then print, if possible. Don’t be afraid to ask your Future Center advisor/high school counselor/financial aid office to help with this!
Request Online – FASTEST way to request & receive your tax transcript. Students and parents can submit an online request to receive a tax transcript by mail by following the steps below.
- Visit www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript.
- Click on the Get Transcript Online or Get Transcript By Mail button.
- To use Get Transcript by Mail, you need your Social Security number (SSN) or your Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), date of birth, and address from your latest tax return. To use Get Transcript Online, you must have the taxpayer’s SSN and additional information, including access to an email account. This option often doesn’t work, so don’t worry – you can request to have your transcript sent by mail.
- Click “OK” on the “This U.S. government system is for authorized use only” pop up.
- Enter your personal information requested (SSN or ITIN, date of birth, street address, and zip code). Your information must match your most recently filed tax return. Note that if you or your parents filed jointly as married, tax account information is requested using the SSN or ITIN of the primary taxpayer shown on your return.
- Select “Return Transcript” for 2017 tax year.
- If the IRS was able to match your information, you will see a screen that confirms that your request was accepted. If you selected Get Transcript by Mail, your tax transcript will be mailed to you in 5-10 days. The IRS will mail the transcript to the address on file for you; unfortunately, you’re not able to ask that it be mailed to a different address.
Request by mail using Form 4506T-EZ
- http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506tez.pdf (English)
- http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506tes.pdf (Spanish)
The English and Spanish forms linked above can be used to request IRS tax return transcripts for those whose address or name have changed.
What if your parent(s) did not file taxes?
If you are selected for verification, but your parent(s) did not file taxes, you will need to order a “Verification of Non-Filing” statement from the IRS.
To order the verification of non-filing, start by completing this form and mailing to the IRS: IRS Form 4506T – Select Option 7
- If you provide your parent(s) information on the FAFSA (you’re considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes), you don’t have provide verification of non-filing for yourself.
- If you are an independent student for FAFSA purposes (you don’t provide parental information), then you must provide verification of non-filing if you did not file taxes.
What if your college asks for your W2, but you can’t get it from your employer?
You can use the same form (Form 4506-T) to order a copy of your W2 from the IRS. Check the box for Option 8.
Financial Aid & Deferred Action (DACA Students)
Students with DACA status are not eligible to receive federal financial aid at this time.
In general, students who are not eligible for federal aid (including DACA, Dreamer/undocumented, ASSET students) and plan to attend college in Colorado should not submit the FAFSA, unless their college specifically requires that they do so to qualify for institutional aid. Instead, Colorado offers the CASFA for ASSET, DACA, and other students who are not eligible for federal aid. Refer to the CASFA section on this page for details.
If you’re not sure which financial aid application you should complete, talk to the Financial Aid Office at the colleges you’re considering, or ask your Future Center Advisor or high school counselor.
Important Steps After FAFSA or CASFA
After submitting your FAFSA or CASFA, there are important steps you must follow to receive your financial aid award money. Prompt follow-up is extremely important to ensure you receive your awards before classes begin.
1. Set Up Your College Email
Set up your student email account(s) at each college included on your FAFSA or CASFA. Check your email frequently!
2. Review Your SAR (FAFSA) or CASFA PDF
Once you submit your FAFSA, it will be processed and a Student Aid Report (SAR) will be created for you and each college you listed. Review your SAR carefully to check for accuracy. You will receive instructions to view your SAR online if you included your email address on your FAFSA, or you will receive a hard copy by mail.
Once you submit your CASFA, you will be able to download a PDF of your completed application (you can also log in later to download it). Review it carefully to make sure all of the information you added is correct. If you need to make changes, you will need to contact the financial aid offices of the colleges you listed on your CASFA.
3. If Needed, Change or Correct Your FAFSA
If your SAR includes any inaccurate information, log back into your online FAFSA account to make corrections. If you did not use the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool to link to tax information for yourself or your parent(s) when you completed FAFSA, log back into your online FAFSA account to try using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool again.
4. If Needed, Change or Correct Your CASFA Information
Please check your CASFA very carefully before you submit, because CASFA doesn’t have a way to make corrections right now.
If your completed CASFA includes any inaccurate information, contact the financial aid office at the colleges you listed on your CASFA. They will be able to help you make any changes or corrections, but you must contact EACH college directly.
5. Check Your College Email Frequently
The Office of Financial Aid (OFA) at each college included on your FAFSA or CASFA will review your information and determine if any additional documentation is required to verify the information on your FAFSA or CASFA. If additional information is needed, you must provide it before the OFA can determine your eligibility for need-based financial aid. If additional information is required, the OFA will notify you by email.
6. Follow Up Quickly
If the OFA requests additional information, follow the instructions in the email right away and answer the email. Be sure to make copies of everything before you submit information to the OFA.
7. Call or Visit the Office of Financial Aid
You should also call or visit the OFA – they are there to help. We strongly encourage you to contact the OFA by phone or in person for help providing additional information and to make sure they receive the information you submit!
8. Review and Accept Awards
Once the OFA has received and processed all of your information, review your notice of offered financial aid awards carefully and follow the instructions to accept your awards. Ask your Future Center Advisor or high school counselor to help you compare award letters from different colleges so you understand how much you will pay at each college.
If you accept student loans, you will need to complete entrance loan counseling and sign a Master Promissory Note.
Gather Information Now – Do not send verification information listed below unless it is requested by Financial Aid!
Information that May Be Required for Verification:
- Proof of identity with either a Driver’s License or State issued ID;
- Proof of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly called food stamps, you or your parent(s) receive;
- Proof of date of graduation, via a High School Transcript;
- Proof of child support paid;
- Proof of income and tax information
- Added directly to FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool
- Requested from the IRS directly via an IRS Tax Return Transcript
- Set up your college email and check it often to find out what, if any, additional information you must provide.