How to Apply for Financial Aid

Step 1: File your FAFSA

The FAFSA becomes available on January 1st for the upcoming academic year. U.S. citizens and permanent residents interested in participating in federal loan programs must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. Students must input The University of Pennsylvania’s institutional code: 003378, so that their FAFSA information can be sent electronically to the university. If a student filed taxes in the previous year, that tax return information will be needed to complete the application. Parents’ information is not needed. Students must complete the FAFSA to be considered for Direct loans.

The FAFSA information will be sent directly to the University's Student Financial Services Office (SFS). SFS will then prepare an official financial aid package based on the FAFSA information, which will be sent directly to the student. If you have questions about your FAFSA application, you may contact FAFSA directly at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or FederalStudentAidCustomerService@ed.gov.


Step 2: Apply for Loans

Accepted GSE students who have completed an online admissions enrollment form, paid a deposit fee (if applicable), and submitted a FAFSA should expect to receive a financial aid package from Student Financial Services (SFS) in the mail in May (or later if the student enrolls later in the spring or summer). 

After May 15th, full-time students can apply for Direct Loans online through the Penn Loan System (a PennKey and password are needed to log-in to the system) and GradPLUS Loans through the www.studentloans.gov website (you can find out more quickly whether you have passed the necessary credit check). A GradPLUS loan is a federal loan students can use to borrow the amount listed as “Alternative Loan” in the SFS aid package. Students must agree to and pass a basic credit check in order to borrow a GradPLUS loan, while all full-time students who have filed a FAFSA are initially eligible to borrow $20,500 in an unsubsidized Direct Loan.


Step 3: Complete Loan Applications

Before Direct or GradPLUS loans can be certified, students must complete two additional steps: (1) sign electronic Master Promissory Note(s) for the Direct Loan (and GradPLUS Loan, if borrowed) and (2) complete Loan Entrance Counseling. These steps must be completed on the studentloans.gov website; the 4 digit pin from the FAFSA application is required to sign-in. Once this information is transmitted to Student Financial Services, the Loan Office can certify a student’s loans and schedule a disbursement date. Students can check the status of their loan applications by using the Penn Loan System.


Step 4: Receive Loan Funds

Loans will usually disburse to students’ accounts two weeks prior to the start of the term, if students have successfully submitted a loan application, completed loan counseling, and signed the Master Promissory Note(s) in ample time for processing.

When a loan disburses to a student’s Penn account, SFS will pay off the balance due on the account and any remaining funds will be issued as a refund to the student.* We strongly encourage all students to sign up for Direct Deposit through Penn InTouch! Direct deposit links a personal checking account with a student’s Penn account so that refunds can easily and quickly be delivered to the student. If students do not sign-up for direct deposit, their refunds will be issued on an ADP Aline debit card.

*Please note: Students should complete the Federal Refund Authorization Form to ensure that federal funds may be used to pay off a student bill in its entirety at the time of loan disbursement.

For further information please see our Frequently Asked Questions page or contact the Financial Aid Office at 215-898-6415 or finaid@gse.upenn.edu.