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How Financial Aid Works

Financial Aid can seem scary, complicated and intimidating at times- but it doesn’t have to! We’re here to help you through the financial aid process every step of the way.

Your first step in the Financial Aid process is to complete and submit your FAFSA. You must complete and submit a FAFSA every year you would like to be considered for Financial Aid. Once you’ve done that, you’re well on your way!

Once you have submitted your FAFSA, the information you submitted on your FAFSA will be processed by the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid, and the colleges you listed will be notified so they can begin their process of awarding aid.

One of the best things about filling out the FAFSA online is that you can check its processing status immediately. This comes in handy when you’re thinking, “I wonder if it went through?”

Within a few days of filling out the FAFSA, you’ll get your Student Aid Report (SAR). Basically, the SAR summarizes the information you submitted on the FAFSA. You can access your SAR online using your FSA-ID.

Check your SAR for mistakes. Then make corrections if you need to, but only if you estimated your tax information or provided incorrect information the day you filled out the FAFSA.

On your SAR, you'll see reference to your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This number is used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid; it doesn't mean you have to actually contribute that amount.

It is possible that the ISU Financial Aid Office may require you to verify the information you submitted on your FAFSA. If that happens, you will be notified via email to log in to MyISU and review your status of “Financial Aid Requirements” under the “My Financial Aid” card.

 Check your Bengal Web account to see if you need to submit any additional documents or information.

 Financial Aid Eligibility

 Your Financial Aid eligibility depends on:

 Your EFC is an index number calculated based on information from your FAFSA that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school.

 The EFC is calculated according to a formula established by law. Your family's taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security) all could be considered in the formula. Also considered are your family size and the number of family members who will attend college during the year.

Determining Your Financial Aid Award

To determine your award, the financial aid staff starts by looking at your Cost of Attendance (COA). They then consider your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and subtract your EFC from your COA.

The below formula determines your financial need, and how much need-based aid you can get:

        Cost of Attendance (COA)

        – Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

        = Financial Need


Need-based aid is financial aid that you can receive if you have financial need and meet other eligibility criteria. 

You can’t receive more need-based aid than the amount of your financial need. For instance, if your COA is $6,000 and your EFC is $2,000, your financial need is $4,000; so you aren’t eligible for more than $4,000 in need-based aid.

The following are need-based federal student aid programs:

To determine how much non-need-based aid you can get, the school takes your COA and subtracts any financial aid you’ve already been awarded.

Non-need-based aid is financial aid that is not based on your EFC. What matters is your COA and how much other assistance you’ve been awarded so far. For instance, if your COA is $6,000 and you've been awarded a total of $4,000 in need-based aid and private scholarships, you can get up to $2,000 in non-need-based aid.

Your college determines how much non-need-based aid you can get by using this formula:

        Cost of Attendance (COA)

     – Financial Aid awarded so far*

     = Eligibility for Non-need-based Aid

     *Financial Aid awarded so far includes aid from all sources, such as the school, private scholarship providers, etc.

The following are non-need-based federal student aid programs:


For more information, please visit the Federal Student Aid website.

Award Notification

Once you’re accepted into college and all Financial Aid Requirements are submitted to our office, you’ll get an award notification from the ISU Financial Aid Office that explains the aid offered to you. If you have any questions about your award, contact the Financial Aid Office at (208) 282-2756.

If you were offered a loan and you’re a first-time borrower, there are a few more steps before you get your loan. You will need to complete and Entrance Counseling and sign the Master Promissory Note or MPN, which is basically your agreement to pay back the loan. The ISU Financial Aid Office will provide you with the necessary information.

How Do I Get My Money?

Once you have accepted your aid, your grants and loans will be applied to tuition, fees and other charges on your ISU student account first, then any leftover money is paid to you.

Work-study funds are earned throughout the term.

Remember, filling out the FAFSA is not a one-time thing; you must complete it every year you attend school.

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