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Financial Aid Demystified

Financial aid doesn’t have to be complicated. Sherry Peplinski, UW Credit Union’s educational lending product manager, answers common questions so you and your student can navigate the financial aid process together.

Why is it important for us to complete a FAFSA, and when should it be completed?

It’s important to complete the Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA) because the information provided is used to determine what federal and state grants or loans your student may qualify for. It is required to receive federal, state or school-based aid. The deadline to complete a FAFSA depends on the school your student is interested in. However, the availability of grants is limited, so it's best to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. Get started at Be sure to follow up with the school your student is attending for information on their deadlines.

Who has to complete the FAFSA?

You and your student must each complete a part of the FAFSA. It's a great opportunity for your student to be involved in and learn the process.

Should we do a FAFSA even if I don't think my student will receive any grants?

Yes. Most students will at least qualify for an unsubsidized federal loan. These loans are not based on a family's financial need. Interest accrues from the date the loan is disbursed. There are also subsidized loans, which are based on financial need. If your student qualifies for a subsidized loan, the government covers the interest while the student is in school at least half-time.

How do I know how much money we'll need?

Have your student look up the cost of attendance on the websites of the schools they’re interested in attending. Subtract any federal aid and scholarships. The amount remaining is your out-of-pocket expense. Also, some schools’ financial aid websites offer cost of attendance calculators. If you need additional funds, we offer Private Student Loans, but be sure to exhaust federal aid first.

What is a Private Student Loan, and what are the benefits of having one?

Private Student Loans help pay for tuition, housing and other education expenses when financial aid runs out. Borrow up to $12,500 annually, and make no payments while your student is attending school at least half-time. There aren’t any fees or penalties for making early payments. Plus, there’s also a cosigner release option after the first 36 payments are made on time. Learn more about our Private Student Loans here. Note that the best time to start your Private Student Loan application is in June as schools start processing requests during the summer months for the upcoming fall semester.

How long does it take to receive the award letter?

It usually takes about two weeks to receive the Student Aid Report, or SAR. The SAR is received after the Department of Education processes your FAFSA information, and a copy of the SAR is sent to any schools listed on your FAFSA. After a school receives your SAR, it can take approximately 2-4 weeks to process your information and generate an award letter. You and your student can accept and reject portions of the financial aid package—pay attention to timelines and due dates the school may have.

Will I have access to my student's financial aid account at their school? 

Schools won't discuss your student’s information with you without a release signed by the student. See your school's policy for more information.

When will my student receive their funds?

Disbursements are not made until the semester starts. If a housing down payment is needed prior to the start of school, be sure to plan accordingly.

Have additional questions?

We're ready to help you and your student through the process. Stop by one of our branches, call us at 800-533-6773, ext. 2950, or click here. Schools also hold informational financial aid sessions during registration events you may also find helpful. In addition, your financial aid office is a great resource.

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