Save the date and take out last year's tax returns. Feb. 1 is UNLV's priority consideration deadline to qualify for financial aid programs.
About 70 percent of UNLV students receive financial aid assistance, with close to $240 million disbursed to UNLV students during the 2012 academic year.
UNLV's office of admissions hosts workshops on campus and at local high schools to help students and families learn about the financial aid and admissions process. Last year, more than 24,000 people visited the financial aid office front desk, and the office answered close to 71,000 calls.
UNLV financial aid counselor Jaime Carbajal Jr. said students and parents often ask him about eligibility criteria, loans and how much funding is available. Many factors contribute to financial aid eligibility, so Carbajal Jr. shared his top 10 tips on the financial aid application process.
Find out if you're eligible to apply for federal student aid.
Eligibility depends on your status as a student. Students who are U.S. citizens, nationals, permanent residents or eligible noncitizens (even if your parents are not) can apply for federal and state aid. Depending on the school you're applying to, if you have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), your FAFSA application may or may not be required. Carbajal Jr. said students with DACA status should apply for the FAFSA to be considered for state and university programs. He recommends students talk with counselors about the process.
Make the deadline.
High school seniors, current undergraduate and graduate students, and prospective students are encouraged to fill out the FAFSA. UNLV's priority deadline for financial aid consideration is Feb. 1. Students can submit the FAFSA after Feb. 1 but might miss out on certain federal student aid programs and UNLV programs with funding limits. Other schools and financial aid offices have varying deadline so students applying to other schools should check with those financial aid offices. UNLV's financial aid website has a checklist of what's needed for the FAFSA and steps on how to apply.
Call or drop by the UNLV financial aid office if you questions. Contact the financial aid office if personal circumstances and income levels change. Be proactive in getting help instead of reactive, Carbajal said. Video conferencing via Skype is available by appointment on Fridays for enrolled UNLV students from 2 to 4 p.m.
Get help filling out the FAFSA at a free UNLV workshop.
On Jan. 29 from 5 to 8 p.m., financial aid counselors will guide you through the process of filling out the application at a free workshop. Visit the FAFSA website to find out what documents you need to bring.
A word on tax returns.
You can use 2013 tax return statements for the 2014-15 FAFSA if you haven't filed a tax return by the time you fill out your application. It's OK to use estimates. Carbajal said when your new tax return information is available, log back into your FAFSA account and update your income information with the IRS Data Retrieval process and correct any estimated information. More information on tax records can be found on FAFSA's web site.
Apply for scholarships.
UNLV's online scholarship database lists more than 100 scholarships. A variety of scholarships for undergraduate students are available based on student need, achievement, and college major. Check the website for deadlines and qualifications.
Graduate students can apply too.
Grants, scholarships, and fellowships are available to help you pay for college. Fill out the FAFSA by Feb. 1 to qualify for federal student loans and financial aid packages. Visit the UNLV Graduate College website for more information.
Be aware of scholarship scams.
Be skeptical of websites and companies charging a fee to help you fill out the FAFSA or find scholarships, Carbajal said. If a company needs your credit card number in order to hold a scholarship for you, you know something's awry. Do your research and check the financial aid website for tips.
Loans are a form of financial aid too.
Carbajal said parents and students often ask about loans offered as part of financial aid packages. UNLV's financial aid website breaks down the types of loans available and interest rates you'll have to pay.
Learn about veteran benefits.
If you're a veteran returning to school, check with the UNLV financial aid office and office of veteran services about applying for post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. These offices can assist you in determining other forms of funding you can apply for and help process paperwork.
For more information, call the UNLV Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at (702) 895-3424.