Student Financial Aid

How Financial Aid Works

Frequently Asked Questions

You may access your financial aid status online at your Student Center, accessible via Buckeye Link, anytime for aid-related information or updates. Please contact the Student Service Center at (614) 292-0300 or (800) 678-6440 (callers outside of 614 area code), or visit the Student Service Center at 281 West Lane Avenue during service hours if you have any questions.

  1. How can I pay for my college education?
  2. How do I get financial assistance?
  3. What is financial need?
  4. Has my award notification been sent?
  5. Am I selected for verification?
  6. Why am I not eligible for more aid or certain types of aid?
  7. Will it affect my aid if I drop hours?
  8. Why am I on Suspension Status?
  9. Is my financial aid taxable?
  10. What if my family's financial circumstances have changed?
  11. What is the status of my appeal?
  12. Why hasn't my aid posted to my Statement of Account?
  13. What is my current Statement of Account balance?
  14. Where is my refund?
  15. Can I have my late fees waived?
  16. How do I waive my health insurance?
  17. I turned in my verification documents but Student Self Service says the forms are still needed?

1) How can I pay for my college education?

Your college education will be one of the most important investments you and your family will ever make. The first place to look for financial support for college will be to yourself and your family. You and your family have an obligation to contribute as much as you can from income, savings, and other assets toward your college expenses, which include tuition, fees, and living costs.

Bear in mind, however, that approximately 80% of Ohio State students receive some form of financial aid that helps them pay for their college education. File the Free Application for Federal Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for financial assistance. It is also possible to pay fees on a payment plan at Ohio State.

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2) How do I get financial assistance?

If you are unable to attend college without financial assistance, and/or your previous academic performance has been superior, financial aid may be available to you from a number of sources. That aid may be in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, and/or work programs.

Student Financial Aid at Ohio State can help you determine what assistance you may qualify for and help you obtain that assistance. The financial aid staff uses the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine financial need and to distribute limited funds to those who have the fewest financial resources. To increase your chances of getting the maximum aid for which you are eligible, be sure to file by your priority deadline. Ohio State's FAFSA priority deadline is February 15.

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3) What is financial need?

The formula that defines a student's financial need is:

You'll find that your financial need may make you eligible for some programs and not for others. For instance, you may be eligible for a scholarship but not for the Federal Pell Grant. There are even financial aid programs for which you can be considered when you have no financial need--the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan and the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan or Parent PLUS Loan. Please note that it is not always possible for Ohio State to cover every student's full financial need and that it is then up to the student's family either to provide personal resources or to secure additional loans to cover the difference between costs and aid awarded.

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4) Has my award notification been sent?

You will receive an award notification from Student Financial Aid if you are admitted to Ohio State and your FAFSA is on record with Ohio State, unless you are in default, on SAP Suspension Status, or have been selected for verification. If you are awarded merit-based aid, you will receive an award notification even if you have not filed the FAFSA or if you are on SAP Suspension Status.

Students will be notified by e-mail to check their award status on their Student Center, accessible via Buckeye Link.

Awarding for incoming freshmen will start in mid-March, and by late-May for enrolled students. Financial aid packages for students in Law, Medicine, Dentistry, Optometry, Pharmacy, and Veterinary Medicine will be processed according to each college's academic schedule.

Be sure to check your Buckeye Mail regularly for notifications from SFA and other offices on campus. Follow instructions on Student Self Service for any applicable acceptance of aid and necessary paperwork. Financial Aid Step-by-Step should help you determine where you are in the process.

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5) Am I selected for verification?

Your Student Center, accessible via Buckeye Link, should always be the first thing you check. If you are selected for verification or certification, you will see a checklist on the To Do List tab of Self Service letting you know what documents you will need to submit. In some cases, you may be selected for verification on your Student Aid Report by the federal processor, but Ohio State may choose not to ask for documents from you. No documents are required in this case and you will not be assigned a checklist as a To Do item related to verification or certification.

When we are requesting verification of information, you will receive a notification directing you to the forms necessary for completing your file. All forms are available online. Make sure all documents are received by SFA prior to your designated deadline so we can consider you for the maximum financial aid. The federal FAFSA processor does not review any applicant's tax returns, so please do not submit actual tax forms to the processor. See How To Apply FAQ # 4, What if I need to correct information on my FAFSA, if you believe the information on your FAFSA is not correct. More explanation of the verification process can be found at How to Apply.

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6) Why am I not eligible for more aid or certain types of aid?

Some financial aid is need based and some is merit based, while other types require both need and merit. Several factors are involved when determining your aid eligibility:

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - This figure indicates what a family is expected to contribute toward a student's educational expenses. It also serves as an index for awarding certain types of aid.
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) - Certain scholarships require a specific cumulative GPA.
  • Class Rank - The Federal Direct Loan Program has annual limits based on the total number of hours you have successfully completed. See borrowing limits for more details.
  • Budget/Cost of Attendance - There are established budgets for all Ohio State students based on academic level, residency, living arrangements, etc. A budget includes tuition, room and board, transportation, clothing, laundry, telephone, and other miscellaneous expenses for the terms you enroll in an academic year. Federal regulations prohibit any institution from awarding aid that exceeds a student's annual budget or need-based aid in excess of a student's demonstrated financial need.
  • Deadlines - There are federal, state, and university deadlines. If you do not file the FAFSA or Scholarship Application by your priority deadline, you may be ineligible for certain types of aid. See Important Dates and Deadlines for more information.

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7) Will it affect my aid if I drop hours?

If you drop below full-time status at any time through the fourth Friday of the term, your aid may be adjusted. See the “Important Dates” section on the Registrar's website for the semester's calendar, registration dates, and add/drop/withdrawal deadlines. Some scholarships such as the Grace Washburn, Charles High and the Ohio Academic Scholarship will be cancelled or reduced regardless of when you fall below full-time. Please refer to What Happens to Your Aid When You… for more information.

If you decide to withdraw from all of your classes at any time during the semester and you have received a refund check or direct deposit, you may be required to return all or a portion of the refund. Your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) completion percentage will be affected. If you drop classes, but are still enrolled for at least one credit hour, only the classes with a mark of "W" will affect your SAP status. However, your aid may be subject to adjustments depending on the drop dates showing on your registration record and the final number of hours enrolled.

When the SAP completion percentage is below the requirement, your future financial aid will be in jeopardy. Please see the next question for more information. If you have had a SAP appeal approved and have been given specific conditions to meet, you will need to follow the stipulations listed on the SFA Status page in the Financial Aid section of your Student Center, accessible via Buckeye Link, in order to continue to receive financial aid.

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8) Why am I on Suspension Status?

All undergraduate, graduate, Extended Education, and Senior Professional students are monitored for Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). Your "completion rate" reflects the ratio between the credit hours you have attempted and the credit hours you have successfully completed. Withdrawals, failing grades, incompletes, EN grades and hour drops after the 50% forfeiture period can all affect your SAP status or eligibility for financial aid, as can a low grade point average.

If you do not meet the cumulative GPA and/or completion percentage requirements, you will be suspended and notified accordingly. Students on suspended status will not be eligible for aid. If you have almost reached your maximum time-frame, you will be notified. If you reach your maximum time frame, you will be put on Suspension Status and will no longer be eligible to receive aid.

For a fuller discussion of our Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy, visit our SAP page. If your eligibility has been suspended, you may file an appeal with our office if extenuating circumstances exist.

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9) Is my financial aid taxable?

For degree-seeking students, any amount of a scholarship (including athletic scholarship), fellowship, or grant that exceeds the costs of tuition, mandatory fees, books, and required supplies or equipment will be considered taxable income and is subject to federal tax. This may also be subject to state taxes. Contact your state tax office for more information.

For example, if you have a scholarship, fellowship, or grant that is designated for child care or room and board, the full amount is taxable. It is important to know that since taxes are not usually withheld from these forms of aid, you may be required to pay estimated taxes. Please see IRS Publication 970 or your tax accountant for more detailed information.


  • For non-degree-seeking students, the entire amount of any scholarship, fellowship, or grant is taxable.
  • If you work in exchange for money (e.g. Federal Work-Study, graduate assistantship stipends, etc.), the entire amount is taxable.

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10) What if my family's financial circumstances have changed?

If the financial circumstances in your family have changed substantially, you may have your financial aid eligibility reviewed. Such changes may involve you or members of your immediate family. They include but are not limited to:

  • Loss of employment
  • Death or disability of a family wage earner
  • Divorce or separation
  • Substantial reduction of current year income, loss of nontaxable income, etc.

Please contact the SSC and speak with a student service specialist regarding your appeal. Keep in mind that the appeal itself does not guarantee any changes to your financial aid package. In some cases, an appeal may be approved but may not result in any additional aid. You may also have loan options—see the loan section on our web site for more information.

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11) What is the status of my appeal?

During non-peak processing times, please allow two to four weeks for review of your appeal once we have received it. Depending on the complexity of the appeal, we may request additional documentation. During peak processing season (March through August) the turnaround time may be longer and will depend on the quantity of appeals received in our office. Therefore, during this time, appeals may take up to four to six weeks for review. The student will be sent a written notice detailing the appeal outcome. If you have not been notified of the result of your appeal within the timelines specified, please contact the SSC.

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12) Why hasn't my aid posted to my Statement of Account?

There could be many reasons why your financial aid has not been posted to your Statement of Account. Some of the most common items are listed below:

  • Verification - A verification hold will prevent aid from posting until all appropriate documentation has been submitted and is reviewed by our office and your eligibility has been confirmed.
  • Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) - If you are on Suspension Status, your aid will be held until you regain eligibility or an appeal is filed and approved.
  • Promissory note and other paperwork - A master promissory note and/or a loan acceptance will be needed for Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (see How To Apply FAQ #6 for details). For a PLUS Loan, both a Master Promissory Note and the application resulting in a credit check approval have to be in place for a disbursement to occur. For you to receive a Perkins Loan, the acceptance and an annual promissory note must be on file.
  • PLUS Loan credit approval - Your parent will be notified of the credit decision by the loan servicer approximately two to four weeks after SFA receives a completed PLUS application from your parent borrower.
  • Entrance Counseling - First-time Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan borrowers are required to successfully complete this online counseling to have the loan(s) disbursed. It takes up to 5 business days for the results to be downloaded to our system.
  • Federal Work-Study - If you have been awarded Federal Work-Study an acceptance will be needed. You will receive your earnings through bi-weekly direct deposit payments once you begin working. Your Federal Work-Study funds will never appear on your Statement of Account and will not be available to assist with fee payment each term.

The Financial Aid Step-by-Step page can also help you with the process. If you have completed all of the required steps, funds from your financial aid should appear on your fee statement approximately 6 weeks prior to the beginning of the term, or 2-4 days after you have registered for classes, depending on when the registration occurs. For most scholarships and some grants, students are required to maintain a full-time status. Loan programs and Federal Work-Study require at least half-time enrollment.

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13) What is the current balance on my Account?

Check your balance by going to your Student Center, accessible via Buckeye Link, and clicking on the Account Inquiry in the Finances section. If your financial aid is not credited to your account, check the Financial Aid section of your Student Center to see if you can identify the problem. Financial Aid Step-by-Step and How It Works FAQ # 12 can also help you find out what may have caused the delay. Contact the Student Service Center if you still have questions.

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14) Where is my refund?

Review the Finances section of your Student Center, accessible via Buckeye Link, first. If your financial aid has been posted to your account, and you have an overage after all charges are paid, you can expect your refund about 5-7 days prior to the start of the term if you have signed up for direct deposit. You can sign up for direct deposit by clicking on the Account Refund link in the Finances section of your Student Center.

If you have not signed up for Direct Deposit, a check will be mailed to your current address.

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15) Can I have my "late fees" waived?

The Student Service Center may waive your late payment penalties ("late fees") if our office caused a delay or error while processing your financial aid. Make sure that you observe your fee deadline closely; be pro-active about securing enough funds before fees are due. Your late payment penalties cannot be waived if you have delayed in applying for aid or you neglected to apply before fees were due.

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16) How do I waive my health insurance?

Please refer to the detailed instructions on the Student Health Insurance site at

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17) I turned in my verification documents but Student Self Service says the forms are still needed?

The To Do items on your Self Service page will be updated to show a date in the Received field once we have logged them in. The received date will be the actual date the item arrived in our office, not the date it was logged in. Once the item has been reviewed, the Status field will be updated to display "Completed." Depending on the time of year forms are requested, it may take 2-4 weeks for documents to show as received and the review to be completed.

First File the FAFSA