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Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships

Division of Student Life and Enrollment

The financial aid application process can be summed up in these 6 steps.
Click on each step to see a brief description.

Step 1: Complete Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The FAFSA is the gateway to the HOPE (Lottery) scholarship, in addition to most federal, state, and institutional aid. After completing the FAFSA students will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) identifying the possible types and amounts of aid available. FAFSA applications are valid for one academic year and need to be renewed each year. The application is available for completion October 1st every year. Students would complete a FAFSA in October to receive financial aid in August the following year. The earlier the FAFSA is completed, the more time ETSU has to process the application.

Scholarships are also available and students are encouraged to apply early. Please visit the scholarships page for additional information.


How do I change or update my FAFSA school code?

You can change your school code online by click the following link and logging in or setting up an account :


How do I apply for the Hope (Lottery Scholarship), federal and state financial aid?

File your FAFSA:  The first step to get financial aid is to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA).  You can fill out the FAFSA starting on October 1st of each year. The school code for ETSU is 003487.

  • Submit the FAFSA every year as soon after October 1st as possible using the IRS Data retrieval option or accurate tax information.
  • Check the FAFSA website 3-5 days after completion of FAFSA or after each FAFSA correction. Find and read the SAR(Student Aid Report)
  • Some financial aid is first come, first served.

Your FAFSA should...

  • Be completed online on the official FAFSA website as soon after October 1st as possible
  • Be FREE. Never pay to file your FAFSA  
  • Have all signature requirements satisfied (including parents if required)
  • Have a calculated Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
  • Not leave any questions blank, incomplete, or incorrect

Are there instructions and/or tips for completing the FAFSA?

 FAFSA Tip:  It is advisable to transfer your income tax information directly from the IRS using the IRS Data Retrieval process. Do not make changes to the transferred information. 

Simple steps to Transfer Tax Information Into Your FAFSA

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) Electronically Transfers Your Federal Tax Return Information Into Your FAFSA. 


  • EASY: Transfer info with the click of a button.
  • FAST: Instantly retrieve your information.
  • ACCURATE: Correctly fill in data fields.


  1. Log in to your current FAFSA, or start a new FAFSA at 
  2. In the finances section of the FAFSA, you will see a “Link to IRS” button if you are eligible to use the IRS DRT. 
  3. Click the “Link to IRS” button and log in to the IRS to retrieve your tax return information. 
  4. Review your tax return information, and see the tax data that will be transferred into your FAFSA. 
  5. Check the “Transfer My Tax Information into the FAFSA” box, and click the “Transfer Now” button. 
  6. Review your federal tax return information that has been transferred into the data fields on your FAFSA. 

The IRS DRT can be used by both students and parents. To learn more about the IRS DRT, visit 

FAFSA Tips and Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for Student Aid

The best way to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is early and online. The FAFSA is primarily designed to assess eligibility for federal student aid, but many states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for nonfederal student aid funds. Remember that there are sometimes early deadlines for nonfederal student aid and that there is limited funding for some types of student aid. Turning your FAFSA in early could earn you limited aid funds that may not be available if you delay. Any errors you make when filling out the FAFSA could delay your application. This article highlights some common errors you should avoid when filling out the FAFSA and provides tips to help you fill out the application.

Completing your taxes early will help you get a jump on the FAFSA because you'll need that information to complete the FAFSA. You can estimate the amounts using data from previous tax years, but you'll need to correct the amounts on the form later by going to the corrections page on the FAFSA Web site.

It is advisable to use the IRS Data retrieval tool to link your tax information to your FAFSA electronically. To use this tool while completing your FAFSA:

  1. Log-In with your FSAID and click Link To IRS under the income information.
  2. Your FAFSA will be saved and you will be transferred to the IRS Web site.
  3. On the IRS Web site, enter the requested information.
  4. Once the IRS has validated your identification, your IRS tax information will display. You can either transfer your information from the IRS or choose to return to FAFSA on the Web from the IRS Web site. If you do not transfer your information or choose not to return from the IRS Web site, you will have to login to open your saved FAFSA.
  5. If you transfer your IRS tax information, questions that are populated with tax information will be marked with “Transferred from the IRS.”
  6. Once you have transferred your IRS tax information to the FAFSA, do not make any corrections to this data.

If you apply online, your application will be processed faster and will likely be more accurate because the FAFSA Web site is designed to catch common errors. The online application also provides worksheets that will calculate amounts and enter them into the field for you. It also allows you to skip questions that are not relative to your unique situation. You can save and continue the FAFSA at any time online and then sign and submit your application electronically using your FSAID.

Making mistakes on your FAFSA could delay your application and possibly make you lose out on some financial aid. Some of the most common errors people make are listed below. As you complete the FAFSA try to avoid these errors.

  • Leaving blank fields–Enter a '0' or 'not applicable' instead of leaving a blank. Too many blanks may cause miscalculations and an application rejection.
  • Using commas or decimal points in numeric fields–Always round to the nearest dollar.
  • Listing incorrect Social Security Number or Driver's license number–Check these entries and have someone else check them too. Triple check to be sure.
  • Entering the wrong federal income tax paid amount–Obtain your federal income paid amount from your income tax return forms, not your W-2 form(s).
  • Listing Adjusted Gross Income as equal to total income–These are not the same figure. In many cases, the AGI is larger than the total income. This mistake is particularly common.
  • Listing marital status incorrectly–They want to know what you're marital status is on the day you sign the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA.
  • Listing parent marital status incorrectly–The custodial parent's marital status is needed; furthermore, if the custodial parent has remarried, you'll need the stepparent's information too.
  • Leaving the question about drug-related offenses blank–If you're unsure about something, find out before you submit your FAFSA instead of leaving it blank. A conviction doesn't necessarily disqualify you from getting aid.
  • Forgetting to list the college–Obtain the Federal School Code for the college you plan on attending and list it–along with any other schools to which you've applied. ETSU’s School code is 003487.
  • Forgetting to sign and date–When filing your FAFSA electronically, be sure to obtain your FSAID by clicking on the link to create an FSAID.
  • Entering the wrong address–Your permanent address is not your campus or summer address.
  • Sending in a copy of your income tax returns–Do not send a copy of your tax returns in with your application. Check your SAR to see if you were selected for verification. If selected for verification, you will need to submit a completed verification worksheet and Tax Return Transcript and W2s for you and your parent/spouse as applicable.

Additional Tips

Much of the financial information you need to provide is on your tax forms. Completing your taxes early can make the application process easier because you'll have the financial information you need in one place. Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, available after February 1, to simplify completing your FAFSA. You can estimate your financial information using previous tax years and correct the amounts on the form later by going to the corrections page on the FAFSA Web site. If you are not required to file taxes you still have to fill out a FAFSA to get financial aid.

Here is a list of materials that will help you complete the FAFSA:

  • Your Social Security Number (can be found on Social Security card)
  • Your driver's license (if any)
  • Your W-2 Forms for the previous year and other records of money earned
  • Your (and your spouse's, if you are married) most recent Federal Income Tax Return – IRS Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040Telefile, foreign tax return, or tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia
  • Your parent's Federal Income Tax Return for the previous year (if you are a dependent student as defined by federal criteria)
  • Your current bank statements
  • Your current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond, and other investment records
  • Documentation that you are a U.S. permanent resident or other eligible noncitizen.

Filling out the Pre-Application Worksheet will help you collect and proofread the information for your application before you submit it. There are resources available if you decide you need assistance filling out the FAFSA, check the FAQ section on the FAFSA Web site, or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED AID (1-800-433-3243). Financial aid administrators across the country also participate in free FAFSA events to help applicants fill out the form accurately. Look for a FAFSA event in your area to get free, professional assistance to fill out the FAFSA.


How do I apply for aid as a transfer student?
  • If you are transferring to ETSU for the fall semester, follow the 6 steps outlined above. 

  • If you are transferring to ETSU for the spring semester, 
    1) Add ETSU's school code (003487) to your FAFSA. 
    2) If you are a Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship recipient, list ETSU as the first school on your FAFSA or click the following link and log in or set up an account to change your school code online:
    3) Follow Step 2 through Step 6 of our Step-by-Step Guide. 

  • If you are transferring to ETSU for the summer semester, 
    1) Add ETSU's school code (003487) to your FAFSA, 
    2) If you are a Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship recipient, list ETSU as the first school on your FAFSA or click the following link and log in or set up an account to change your school code online:
    3) Follow Step 2 through Step 6 of our Step-by-Step Guide.
  • Eligibility for transfer students may be limited based on federal loans and/or grants received at another institution during the academic year.
  • Transient students are not eligible to receive federal student aid.


Step 2: Complete Verification Process (If Selected)

Some FAFSA applicants are chosen at random by the U.S. Department of Education and required to provide additional information and documentation to the schools listed on the FAFSA. If selected, students will be notified via their ETSU email account with the required documents listed in GoldLink. ETSU will process the items once all documents have been submitted. The Office of Financial Aid does not process incomplete applications. The verification process can take up to 4 weeks so students are encouraged to submit items as soon as possible.

Special Circumstances – Homeless or At-Risk of Homelessness
If you answered yes to being homeless or at-risk of homelessness on your FAFSA, you may be required to meet with/speak directly to Catherine Morgan, Director of Student Financial Aid and ETSU’s Homeless-Student Liaison in order to complete the FAFSA application process.


If you answered yes to being homeless or at-risk of homelessness on your FAFSA, you must complete the form below and provide any requested supporting documentation. This documentation will vary depending on situation. Categories are outlined on the form. If you have any questions, please contact Catherine Morgan.


2019-2020 Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Verification Form


Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Verification Form and supporting documentation can be mailed, faxed, or dropped off in person.


Catherine Morgan, c/o ETSU Office of Student Financial Aid
Box 70722
Burgin Dossett, Room 105
Johnson City, TN 37614
423-439-5855 (fax)

Step 3: Check Status of Application

Students will be notified, vial their ETSU email, if additional information or documentation needs to be submitted. Students are encouraged to regularly review the status of their application by checking the “Financial Aid Requirements” section GoldLink.

Step 4: Financial Aid Awards

Once the FAFSA has been processed by ETSU and verification has been completed, students will receive an award notification, via their ETSU email, directing them to GoldLink to review and accept their financial aid awards. If accepting loans and if a first time borrower, students will need to complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) and Entrance Counseling.

Find out more about accepting your aid and completing MPN and Entrance Counseling.

Step 5: Confirming Registration

One of the final steps students must complete, prior to fee payment due date and to secure their classes, is confirming their registration online. Students will need to log into GoldLink to confirm and will have three options available.

  • Confirm with payment
      • Student has paid bill in full
      • Student has entered into a payment plan through Bursar’s Office
          • Initial payment (25% of current student balance; due when signing up for the plan) then 3 equal monthly payments due the 15th of each month
  • Confirm with financial aid
      • Student has enough approved aid to cover entire balance
  • Confirm will not be attending ETSU

Students still working through the verification process will not be provided the option to confirm with financial aid and if they wish to secure their classes, will need to do so through the payment plan option. Not sure about your status? Log into GoldLink and view “Student Requirements” under the Financial Aid tab.

Step 6: Updates

Be sure to always notify the Office of Financial Aid, in addition to Admissions and Records, of any status changes and changes in contact information. Stay informed of important dates, deadlines, and changes occurring in Financial Aid.

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