Understanding financial aid is a big factor in your success in college. To help you gain a better awareness of your options, we’ve outlined some of the major things you need to know.
Spring 2021’s deadline for tuition and fees is Friday, Jan. 22, so be sure to study this guide before then. However, students who are anticipated to receive financial aid (awards have either been distributed already or are listed as pending in myUCF) for Spring 2021 have a deferred deadline for tuition payment of Friday, March 19.
Applying for Financial Aid
Where can I view my financial-aid information?
Through myUCF you can view items on your to-do list, due charges, and loan, grant and scholarship offers.
Where should I look for help before reaching out to the Office of Student Financial Assistance?
In general, you should check your email and myUCF account and complete any items on your to-do list. If you have successfully completed the financial aid process, including confirmation of academic activity during the first week for each of your courses, you can expect your approved aid to be disbursed during the second week of classes.
The financial aid help videos cover topics such as the types of financial aid, how to fill out the FAFSA, understanding your to-do list and more, which can help answer many questions without speaking to someone directly.
How can I contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance?
UCF’s Office of Student Financial Assistance is offering limited in-person and virtual meetings. To schedule an appointment, please visit the financial aid website.
You can schedule a virtual appointment with a financial assistance counselor to discuss UCF’s financial aid application process or your financial aid status. Appointments should be reserved for information not accessible through myUCF or the financial aid website. Appointments are available for booking up to two weeks in advance.
What types of financial aid are there?
The most common forms of financial aid are loans, federal work study, grants and scholarships. The U.S. Department of Education offers direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, but it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
- Direct subsidized loans are only available to undergraduate students who demonstrate they have financial need. You do not pay interest on this loan while you are enrolled at least halftime. You also will not pay interest for the first six months following graduation or during a deferment period.
- Direct unsubsidized loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students. You do not need to demonstrate financial need in order to receive this. However, interest will begin to accrue while you are in school, after you graduate and during deferment periods until your loan is paid off. This means your interest accumulates and will be added to the principal amount of your loan.
- Federal work study is a program that can provide you a part-time job while you pursue your degree. FWS employers know you are a student first and are willing to work around your schedule.
- Grants and scholarships both provide you with money to cover costs without the requirement to pay anything back. The difference is grants are need-based while scholarships can be merit-based or in some cases need-based.
- The Pell Grant is the foundation of all financial aid for undergraduate students pursuing their first bachelor’s degree. To be eligible for the Pell Grant you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
What is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid?
This is an online application that uses financial information to determine financial need. Independent students will only need to use their financial information, while dependent students must use their parents as well as their own.
Using your FAFSA application, the government can determine if you are eligible for a Pell Grant, any other federal grants, work-study and loans. Completing the FAFSA is often a requirement for many other non-federal grants and scholarships, so even if you think you may not be eligible for federal financial aid it is important you complete this application.
When and how often should I complete the FAFSA?
You should complete the FAFSA each year because financial information changes on a yearly basis. To receive the greatest consideration, UCF urges students to apply by Dec. 1. However, the FAFSA application is available as early as Oct. 1 each year.
For example, the 2021-22 FASFA is available Oct. 1, but UCF’s priority date for the application is Dec. 1.
What do I need to complete the FAFSA?
Have the following information prepared when you are ready to complete your FAFSA:
- Your social security number
- Alien registration number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
- Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
- Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
- Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
- A federal student aid ID to sign electronically.
- Dependent students will need most of the information above from their parents as well.
The UCF Office of Student Financial Assistance provides info on how to complete your FAFSA.
What if my parents don’t want to give me their tax or any other information?
You cannot be considered independent on the basis of a parent refusing to provide information. However, students in extenuating circumstances like neglect, abuse or abandonment, should visit the UCF’s financial-aid office to discuss their circumstances and file an appeal. More information can be found on the financial aid website.
Do I need to complete any other documents to receive financial aid?
Sometimes the Department of Education selects students for verification. This may be because a student incorrectly completed their FAFSA paperwork, have missing information on their application, or financial information has changed drastically from the year prior. These forms include dependent or independent verification, untaxed income worksheets, parent tax-filing statement and more. Any documentation needed to compete the financial aid process is listed in the To Do List on myUCF.
How long can I receive aid?
There are time limits and maximum amounts established for financial aid. Pell Grant recipients have a lifetime eligibility usage limit. There is a limit to the amount of federal student loans a student may borrow and a maximum timeframe for which students can receive financial aid.
How is the amount of financial I’m offered determined?
Financial aid is determined based on financial need, which considers your income, and/or your parents income, and scholarship and grant offers. In general, students who meet UCF’s priority deadline for completing the FAFSA are given the maximum consideration for aid.
Where can I find scholarships?
You can use UCF’s Access to Opportunities Search Engine, also called A2O, to find scholarships offered through UCF. You will need to complete A2O’s application once a year to be automatically matched with scholarships you may qualify for. On the search engine’s page you can also find an external link of 1,500 verified scholarships that are available. This list is updated on a regular basis.
Tip: Scholarships are an underutilized form of aid with many receiving few or no applicants. So be sure to take advantage of them. Also, apply no matter how big or small the award amount is because every dollar can make a difference.
How can I apply for federal work study?
When completing the FAFSA you must indicate you’re interested in participating in federal work study. From there students are selected for the program based on eligibility. To be eligible you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident, eligible non-citizen, or citizen of the Freely Associated States: The Federated States of Micronesia and the republics of Palau and the Marshall Islands (for more information, please see the FAFSA)
- Have a social security card or letter from the Social Security Administration (application receipt)
- Be enrolled as a part-or full-time degree-seeking student
- Meeting UCF’s standards for satisfactory academic progress (Met, Academic Plan, Warning & Probation are acceptable).
- Being in need of at least $4,000 for the fall and spring or $2,000 for the summer
- Have a completed review status
What Do I Need to Know About Disbursement?
What is disbursement and when should I expect to receive it?
Disbursement is the process in which financial aid awards (scholarships, grants, loans, etc.) are posted to your account. For students who have met all financial aid eligibility requirements, disbursement is typically distributed the day before tuition is due, so the Thursday of the second week of classes.
The timing for each students’ disbursement is contingent on when they meet all conditions for receiving aid. This includes submitting necessary documents to the Office of Student Financial Aid and completing the confirmation of academic activity in your courses.
What is confirmation of academic activity?
Confirmation of academic activity is a federal regulation that ensures a student is actually attending a course. This must be done for each of your courses and can take the form of an online quiz, in-class activity or your instructors may opt to take attendance for the activity.
Most often instructors require students to complete this activity during the first week of each semester. Confirmation of academic activity can be completed after the first week of classes, however a portion of your aid could be delayed.
It’s in your best interest to complete the confirmation of academic activity during the first week of classes. .
What About Refunds?
How is a refund different from disbursement?
A refund is the excess money you may receive after tuition, fees and other charges are deducted from your disbursement. The easiest way to receive any refunds is to set up direct deposit through myUCF. Students who do not set up direct deposit will receive a refund check by the mail.
When should I expect to receive my refund?
Students should allow up to 72 hours for direct-deposit refunds to arrive in their respective banking institutions. Students should allow five to seven business days for mailed refunds to arrive to a home address.
I haven’t received my refund yet, what should I do?
Students who opt for mail refunds should make sure their address in the UCF system is their current one and not their parents’ or a former one. Students who have set up direct deposit should make sure all their information is accurate.
If you’re having any trouble with your refund, contact Student Account Services not Student Financial Assistance. . The financial aid office does not handle refunds.
Does UCF Offer Advances for Financial Aid?
Can I get an advance on my financial aid?
Starting three weeks prior to the start of each semester, students can take advantage of one of two options for advances on financial aid. Both are only available to students who have accepted enough aid to cover tuition and fees, as well as books and supplies.
The first option is the textbook opt-in program, which advances students up to $600 for textbooks and supplies. You must opt-in for the program online using myUCF. Once approved, you can then purchase what you need from the Barnes and Nobles on-campus bookstore. This charge will go to you myUCF account and once disbursement takes place the bookstore is automatically paid from your financial-aid funds.
To learn more about how to save money on textbooks, click here.
The second option is a short-term advance. You can apply for this by filling out and submitting an application to the financial-aid office. You can receive up to $600 if you plan to repay through financial aid or you can receive up to $300 if you plan to use another method. While many students use this advance for books, some also use it for rent or housing payments as well.
You can only use one form of advance each semester.
When do I have to pay back an advance?
If you are repaying an opt-in textbook or short-term advance through their accepted financial aid, the repayment should automatically be taken from your UCF account during disbursement. If you are repaying a short-term advance on your own the Spring 2021 semester is March 12.
Drop, Add and Withdrawal of Classes
How does adding or dropping a course impact my financial aid?
Certain forms of financial aid, such as the Bright Futures Scholarship Program, are determined based on the number of credit hours you are enrolled in. This means adding and dropping courses can affect the amount of aid you receive. However, financial-aid disbursement occurs after the add/swap and drop period each semester to make sure you’re disbursed the proper amount of aid.
In some particular instances, students will late drop a class(es). This can result in students losing a portion or all of their financial aid after it has already been disbursed.
How does withdrawing from courses impact my financial aid?
In terms of federal aid, the Department of Education views your course attendance as the means through which you earn your aid. UCF distributes the entire amount of aid for students at the start of the semester with an expectation students will complete the semester. When you submit an official withdrawal from all courses students may be required repay a portion or all of the aid received for that semester. The financial-aid office will perform a calculation that considers determining the amount that must be returned to the federal government.
These same policies and procedures apply for unofficial withdrawals, which occur when a student fails to earn any credit during a semester because they have stopped attending class. Over time, withdrawals can impact your financial aid eligibility because they factor into your course completion ratio and maximum timeframe for degree completion. As a part of the Department of Education’s required satisfactory academic progress monitoring, UCF keeps track of the number of successfully completed course hours versus all course hours attempted by a student. Students must successfully complete 70 percent of all credit hours, including transfer hours, to remain eligible for federal financial aid.
What happens if my course completion ratio drops below 70 percent?
During the first semester you dip below 70 percent, you will be placed on financial-aid warning. If you do not raise your completion ratio by the following semester, you will become ineligible for financial aid and must submit an appeal to be reinstated.
What about medical withdrawals?
In terms of federal aid, students who are approved for a medical withdrawal are still subject to the same rules as official withdrawal students. However, if you are approved for a medical withdrawal you may also be approved for a refund of tuition fees.
Most Common Errors
Here are some of the most common financial-aid errors students make and how to avoid them:
Not Resolving Admissions Holds
Incoming first-year students need to resolve any holds on your admissions status, including submitting final high school transcripts or residency information, in order to receive aid.
Not Reading myUCF Notifications
Through myUCF, students receive notifications on their To-Do List for any actions they need to take to satisfy financial-aid requirements. These items outline any forms a students must submit and which office they need to contact. By not properly reading these items students delay their financial aid.
Not Setting up Direct Deposit
It’s important you set up direct deposit to ensure you’ll receive aid and refunds as quickly as possible to their bank account. Direct deposit removes the need to mail checks, which are cut only once a week and can take five to seven business daysbefore reaching students. These checks are also mailed to the address UCF has on file. Some students forget to update this address to their current one or change it from their parents’ address, which will result in a delay of your refund.
Not Starting/Competing the Financial-aid Process Early Enough
Starting and completing the financial-aid process early is important to ensure the financial-aid office has all the documents it needs to provide you aid.Paying attention to deadlines and items on your myUCF to-do list is helpful for keeping you on track. Some important dates to keep in mind are:
- Oct. 1 – The date the FAFSA application becomes available each year
- Dec. 1 – UCF’s priority date for completing the FAFSA. Students who meet this deadline are given the maximum consideration for aid.
- May 30 – UCF’s priority date for submitting any financial-aid documents needed to determine aid for upcoming aid year.
To learn more about financial aid or watch videos that can help you through several financial-aid processes, visit ucf.edu/financial-aid.