Financial Aid FAQs

What is the difference between FAFSA and Bright Futures? Do I need to apply for both?

The Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) is a federal application used to determine federal financial aid including the federal Pell Grant program and federal student loans. Some institutions and foundations also use it for scholarship opportunities that they have. Every student should complete the FAFSA. The student and a parent will need basic family information as well as income information. For the current FAFSA application, the family will need to provide the income from their 2018 tax return. If they can, families should use the IRS data retrieval tool to import their income information to reduce errors in reporting. Students can share their FAFSA information with up to ten schools, so each school and create a financial aid package that will work toward the cost of attendance.

Bright Futures is a merit-based scholarship connected to the Florida Application for Aid. After a student completes the FAFSA, they should complete the Florida Application for Aid to receive state aid, including Bright Futures. The state determines eligibility for Bright Futures, so the student is not required to complete a FAFSA to be eligible for Bright Futures. Once the student has completed their service hours, they should report them to their counselor. The registrar of the high school reports this information to the state in September, February and July for final transcripts. Community Service Hours completed and turned into the high school can be viewed in the student’s Crosspoint, Transcripts and Community Service Hours.

Isn’t the FAFSA for student loans? What if I don’t want to take out a student loan?

The FAFSA includes scholarships and grants (which do not need to be repaid) as well as loan options (which do need to be repaid). By completing the FAFSA, a student will see what types of aid and how much they are eligible for. A student always has the option to decline loans.

Is it too late to apply for scholarships and financial aid? Have deadlines been extended?

It is not too late to apply. While FAFSA (due by June 30) and Florida Application for Aid deadlines have not been extended, there are still opportunities for a student to receive funding. Some local scholarships have extended their deadlines. Scholarships are classified as merit-based (GPA requirement), need-based (based on the FAFSA), or career/major focused. For a list of local scholarships available, students should check with their guidance counselor or visit launchyourplan.org.

What if my family’s income has changed due to COVID-19 or for some other reason?

Contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend. Financial aid officers can perform a “reevaluation of income” to reflect the family’s updated financial situation. Families should be prepared to provide documentation of the change in income and the reason for the change. If a family has not completed the FAFSA, they should still accurately report their 2018 income on the application, and then contact the financial aid office of the school the student plans to attend to make adjustments to the income. Reevaluations can take place at any time, but should be done as soon as possible, so the school can redetermine a student’s financial aid package.

What if I need to take a gap year or postpone enrollment until the spring semester? What if I have not decided what school to attend?

Financial aid is awarded for a full academic year, but it is divided into Fall 2020, Spring 2021, and Summer 2021 semesters. Aid is not released until the student begins “seat time” (enrolled in and attending classes). If a student does not attend an institution for a semester, the aid will not be released. If a student is planning to wait until spring semester, they should contact the admissions office to let them know that they are planning to wait until the spring. The financial aid will be put on hold until the spring semester. If the student decides to take a gap year, no financial aid will be distributed for the 2020-21 academic year. The student will need to complete a new FAFSA in the fall for the 2021-22 academic year.

What if I decide to change schools?

If you have already completed your FAFSA, log in and make a correction to add the new school that you are planning to attend. This will transmit the FAFSA information to your new school. Information does not transfer between schools, so if you need to make an income adjustment, you will need to contact the new school and provide that information.

What plans are in place for classes in the fall? What happens if we are not able to hold face-to-face classes?

Every college has a taskforce that is working diligently to determine how best to hold classes while maintaining the safety and health of the students, faculty, and staff. Colleges in the state of Florida already have continuity plans in case of hurricanes, so that students are still provided with a high-quality education in a format that follows CDC guidelines. Most colleges will begin releasing details about these plans in June or July.

I need to take the SAT or ACT during the summer to complete the testing requirement for Bright Futures. What should I do?

The state of Florida is aware that some students have been unable to take the standardized test that is required for the Bright Futures scholarship. Officials are currently evaluating how to address the impact of these measures on initial eligibility. Once a decision has been reached, official communication will be distributed. Families are also encouraged to check the Florida student financial aid page for updates.

I still have questions. Who should I contact?

You can reach out to the Student Success Center through launchyourplan.com for a virtual advising appointment. You can also call the Education Foundation of Sarasota County at (941)927-0965.