Do you have questions about financial aid? We have answers! Check out these Frequently Asked Questions. If the answer you are looking for is not here, feel free to contact us.

Applying for Aid

Q: How do I apply for financial aid?
A: The first step is to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The application determines your eligibility for grants, loans, and work study. It must be completed every year. For maximum consideration, we advise you to complete the FAFSA by March 1. The FAFSA for the upcoming academic year becomes available October 1.

Q: Who determines how much aid I get?
A: The federal government has established the basic formula approved by Congress, called Federal Methodology. When we receive your application, it includes your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which is determined by the formula. We subtract your EFC from the total cost of attending the University of Pittsburgh. This gives us your financial need and allows us to develop your financial aid award or package.

Q: What is a “Financial Aid Package”?
A: Your financial aid package is composed of the different types of financial aid (scholarships, grants, loans, and work study) combined to form your award. Most students have a combination of grants, loans, and work study in their packages.

Q. What are the factors that determine financial need?
A: Most people have the misconception that income is the only factor in determining need. However, other variables are considered such as: family size, number of family members in college, age of older parent, savings, investments, and various allowances to income and assets.

Q. In order to receive financial aid do I have to apply every year?
A: Yes. In order to receive consideration for all programs you must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. If necessary, you may estimate your taxes to complete the form.

Q. What is the deadline to apply for financial aid?
A: To receive maximum consideration for aid, you should file your FAFSA before March 1 of each year.

Q. I missed the March 1 application deadline. Can I still apply for financial aid?
A: Yes, you may still apply for a Direct Loan or a Pell Grant. There is no specific deadline for these two federal programs. You must be enrolled at the time funds are disbursed.

Q. Is there a maximum income level that will make me ineligible for financial aid?
A: No. Income level does not automatically disqualify you for financial aid. Other variables, such as the size of your family and the number of family members attending college, are taken into consideration.


Q: How do I complete the Entrance Counseling and Master Promissory Note (MPN)?
A: To complete the Entrance Counseling and Master Promissory Note (MPN), go to the Federal Student Aid website and sign in using your FSA ID. The Direct Loan Entrance Counseling and MPN are good for 10 years after you sign them.

Q: Am I required to file a separate form to obtain a Federal Direct Student Loan?
A: No. Eligibility for the Federal Direct Student Loan is determined using the FAFSA form. However, first-time borrowers are required to complete a Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling.

Q: Should I apply for a loan for one semester or the entire year (private or PLUS loans)?
A: The University splits loans over the course of the year. You will receive half of the loan for the fall semester and half for the spring semester.

Q. What is the interest rate on my loans?
A: For Federal Direct loans such as the Subsidized, Unsubsidized, Parent PLUS, and Grad PLUS Loans as well as the Federal Perkins Loans, the interest rate information can be found on the Federal Student Aid website.

Q. Why does the loan amount on my award letter differ from the amount on my balance due notification?
A: The amount on your balance due notification reflects the amount you are eligible for per semester minus loan origination fees deducted prior to disbursement. You may want to refer to your promissory note for a detailed explanation.


Q: I received a letter that states I am selected for verification. What does that mean?
A: A number of applications are required by the Department of Education to submit an IRS tax return transcript and other financial documentation to Pitt Financial Aid as well as a verification worksheet to verify the financial information reported on the FAFSA. This worksheet will be available on our website in January. You can request a free copy of your tax return transcript from the IRS website or use the IRS data retrieval tool to fill in the correct tax information on the FAFSA.

Q: How does financial aid for the summer term work?
A: If you have remaining eligibility from the school year, you may be able to use it during the summer term. Summer financial aid requires a separate application which can be found on the website. After you schedule your classes for summer, complete the application and submit it to Pitt Financial Aid.

Q: What if our taxes will not be completed by your deadline?
A: Although we encourage you to complete your tax returns before completing the application process, we understand that sometimes this is not possible. You may file using estimates before you complete your taxes, if necessary. Please note that this means you may be selected for verification (a process which requires you to provide your tax documents to Pitt Financial Aid) or need to correct your FAFSA later.

Q: What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
A: The IRS data retrieval tool allows FAFSA applicants to retrieve their tax data directly from the Internal Revenue Service in order to auto-fill the tax portion of the form. The IRS data retrieval tool typically becomes available in late February. IRS information will be available within several days for electronic tax filers or several weeks for paper tax filers.

Q: What happens after my first year in college?
A: You need to reapply for aid each year using the FAFSA. Aid changes each year based upon changes in the family’s financial situation and changes in college expenses.

Q: What is Satisfactory Academic Progress?
A: To receive funds administered by Pitt Financial Aid, a student must be making measurable academic progress toward completion of an eligible degree. Federal regulations require evaluation of both quantitative and qualitative academic progress.

Q: If my parents are divorced or separated, are both of them responsible for contributing to my education?
A: The financial obligation of the non-custodial parent lies within the court agreement that the parents have arranged. Both the custodial parent and current spouse, if any, must complete the FAFSA form. The non-custodial parent is not required to report information for federal student aid purposes.

Q. What does it take to be considered an independent student?
A: When you apply for federal student aid, your answers to questions on the FAFSA determine whether you are considered a dependent or independent student. To be considered an independent student, you must answer ‘Yes’ to at least one of the questions listed in that part of the FAFSA. Pitt Financial Aid can override a student’s dependent status, but to do so requires some very unusual family situations. These situations require documented evidence from third-party witnesses (police reports, clergy, counselors, etc.).

Q. Is the money I receive from financial assistance programs taxable?
A: Any scholarships, benefits, fellowships, or grants (gift aid) received from the University of Pittsburgh or any other source that, when combined exceed the cost of tuition, fees, books, and required equipment and supplies, are considered taxable income. Loans are not included. Since you are required to report taxable awards to the IRS as income, you should keep a detailed record of all expenditures for tuition, fees, books, and required equipment and supplies. Housing and food are considered non-exempt, so money spent on these items is subject to income tax. For more detailed information, consult a personal tax advisor. Work study earnings are taxable and must be reported on tax returns.

Q. What should I do if my family’s financial circumstances change after I apply for financial aid?
A: If a family’s financial circumstances have changed due to death of a parent, divorce, separation, or loss of employment, contact our office to discuss how this may affect your financial aid.