Financial Aid Frequently Asked Questions


FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid

  • What is the FAFSA?
    • It is a required application for US Citizens and/or Permanent Residents who are interested in participating in Federal Loan Programs.
  • How do I file a FAFSA?
    • Students can file a FAFSA online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. If a student filed taxes in the previous year, he or she will need his or her tax return information. Parents’ information is NOT needed. The University of Pennsylvania institutional code is 003378.
  • Which FAFSA do I file?
    • File the FAFSA for the upcoming academic year to be eligible to borrow loans in Summer, Fall, and Spring.
    • If you are going to be taking classes in the following Summer, you will need to file a new FAFSA once you do your tax returns for the current year.

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Financial Aid Award Letter

  • I am waiting to receive my letter from Student Financial Services. When will I receive it?
    • Student Financial Services typically begins releasing award notices in late May to early June for students who have accepted admission and paid any necessary deposit. 
    • If you have not received a packet by early June and you have officially accepted your offer of admissions to GSE, you should confirm your mailing address in the Student Record System by using Penn InTouch.
    • If your address is correct and you have not received your packet please contact Student Financial Services at 215-898-1988.
  • If the letter I received from SFS lists “Alternative Loan” in my package, what does that mean?
    • An alternative loan is a way for students to cover any portion of tuition, fees, and living expenses that are not paid for by other forms of aid.
    • Students can choose to borrow a private or federal alternative loan. Private alternative loans are not subsidized, and generally have tiered interest rates and fees, both based on your credit score.
    • A GradPLUS loan is a federal form of an alternative loan. We encourage students to utilize federal loans because they qualify for federal repayment and loan forgiveness programs. Please be aware that you must agree to and pass a basic credit check in order to borrow a GradPLUS loan. You can apply for a GradPLUS loan through the Penn Loan System

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Applying for Loans

  • What do I need to do to receive the loans that were awarded in my financial aid letter?
  • My loan application in the Penn Loan System asks how many courses I will be taking. How will I know how many credit units (CUs) I’m taking?
    • Program managers advise students on how many CUs they will be taking and whether the program registers the student for classes or the student should register him/herself. Please contact your program manager for this information, if you have not yet received it.
    • Special Programs
      • Urban Teaching Apprenticeship Program
            Elementary: Sum2 (3CU), Fall (5CU), Spring (3CU)
            Secondary: Sum2 (2CU), Fall (5CU), Spring (4CU)
      • School and Mental Health Counseling
             Sum2 (3CU), Fall (3CU), Spring (4CU)
      • School Leadership:
             Master’s:Fall (5CU), Spring (5CU), Sum1 (Master’s registration fee)
             Certification only: Fall (2CU), Spring (2CU), Sum1 (1CU)

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Loan Disbursement

  • When will my loans disburse?
    • 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.
    • Please note, if the amount borrowed in loans exceeds the balance on the student’s account, her or she will be issued a refund for the difference. We strongly encourage students to sign-up for Direct Deposit, so refunds can be transferred directly to their personal checking accounts.

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Scholarships

  •   How do I know if I received a scholarship, assistantship, or fellowship?
    • There is no separate application for full-time students to be considered for scholarships, assistantships, and fellowships. These award decisions are made by our faculty and communicated at the time of the admissions decision.
    • If you received an award, the amount and terms would be listed in your admission letter. All award offers are final and non-negotiable. Students must sign and return offer letters to GSE’s Financial Aid Office, in order to have the funds applied to their student accounts.
    • Merit scholarships and assistantships for master’s students are applied evenly to a student’s account, paying half of the award in the fall semester and half in the spring.  If a student matriculates in the Spring semester the award will disburse half in the Spring and half in the Fall.
    • Please note that for students in the M.S.Ed. Higher Education program, the Graduate Assistantship process is conducted separately.
  • Can I receive my scholarship in the Summer or have the entire amount applied in the same semester?
    • No, merit scholarships and graduate assistantships are applied to a student’s account evenly across Fall & Spring semesters. 
  • Why does my financial aid award letter from SFS not show my GSE Scholarship?
    • If scholarship agreements are not received and processed by the GSE financial aid office prior to the date that SFS generates financial aid packages then the award will be omitted from the letter.
    • Student Financial Services will send out a revised letter once the award has posted to a student’s account. Students with questions regarding the posting of their awards can contact GSE’s Financial Aid Office.
  • How does my scholarship award affect my loan eligibility?
    • Scholarship and assistantship awards reduce the amount in loans that a student can borrow.

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Billing

  • When will I be billed?
    • Billing is driven by registration, meaning students will not be billed for courses until they are registered for classes. Click here to view the current billing schedule.

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Direct Deposit

  • 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. 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.
    • If If a student does not sign-up for direct deposit, his or her refund will be issued on an Aline Card.

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Work-study and Graduate Associate Positions

  • Work Study
    • How can I qualify to participate in work study?
      • Any US citizen or permanent resident who successfully completes a FAFSA is eligible to participate in federal work study. GSE will receive a pool of funds that are distributed to students on a first-come, first-served basis.
    • What do I need to do to receive a work study award?
      • Students must look on the Student Employment Website for work-study only positions.   Once they are in contact with a supervisor who is interested in hiring them, students must contact the GSE Financial Aid office so that the awards can be posted to their student accounts, if available.
    • How much can I receive in work study?
      • Students earn an hourly wage until they have earned the total amount of the award. The total amount available varies; last year the maximum amount awarded was $3,000.
  • Graduate Associate position in a College House
    • Is there an opportunity to live and work on campus in a residence hall?
      • Yes, GSE students can apply to be Graduate Associates in a Penn College House (residence hall for undergraduate students). The responsibilities are similar to an undergraduate resident advisor. Students can learn more and apply on the College Houses and Academic Services website.  Graduate Associates receive free housing accommodations and a meal plan.

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International Students FAQ

Congratulations on your admission! Now that you are admitted, you may have questions about how to finance a Penn education. We understand that international students have unique questions pertaining to financial aid. We are committed to helping you understand your options so that your transition to Penn GSE is as smooth as possible. If you have further questions, GSE has dedicated financial aid professionals ready to assist you. 

  • Can I ask for more grant funding?
    • The financial assistance indicated on your award notice is final, and should be used to compare offers from other schools and to determine your personal budget. Please note: GSE awards grants and graduate assistantships based on merit as determined by the strength of your application. Our awards are not based on financial need. For general financial aid questions, please contact the Office of Admissions & Financial Aid.
  • Does grant funding extend into the second year of my program?
    • Per your award agreement, offers of grant funding or graduate assistantships are guaranteed for the academic year listed. There is no guarantee of funding for additional years.
  • I was not awarded a grant. What other kinds of assistance are available to me?
    • Aside from Penn GSE merit scholarships, most international students will finance the remainder of their degree through a combination of personal finances, employer benefits and outside scholarships. Many of our students apply for a Graduate Associate position in the College Houses, which pays for your housing and a meal plan. You can also apply for non-work-study positions on-campus through the Student Employment Office.
  • Can I borrow a loan from a US institution to cover my expenses?
    • International students may consider applying for Alternative Loans, keeping in mind that most will require a U.S. co-signer with at least 3 years of positive credit. Students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible for federal student loans.
  • Why is the estimated cost of attendance different on your website than on the I-20?
    • The immigration office requires this office to report approximate costs for our programs before we officially finalize them for the year, and it is not always possible to reflect the flexibility of our courses of study. In some cases, the numbers may not align with a student's actual enrollment. You can find the actual cost of attendance here.
  • How do I apply for a Graduate Assistantship? Where do I look for jobs?
    • The graduate assistantship is part of your financial aid offered by GSE. You will work with your program to determine your assignment; there is no separate employment application. Students admitted into the Higher Education and IEDP Masters programs should contact their programs directly regarding graduate assistantship placement.
  • Can I work off-campus?
    • International students studying on F-1 visas are allowed to work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week (total, across all on-campus positions in non-work-study positions), but must remain in good academic standing. F-1 students may not work off-campus unless they are approved for Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training. Students on J-1 visas need to check with their sponsors about eligibility for on-campus or off-campus employment.
  • Can I live off-campus?
    • Yes! Students choose to live off-campus for many reasons including personal preferences and affordability. At Penn, “off-campus” means the University does not own the residence. Geographically, though, many off-campus buildings are very close to the actual campus. Penn’s Off-Campus Services Department has a great search option to help you find affordable, safe, off-campus housing. Off-campus rental costs in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia typically range from $750-$1500 per month depending on size and other factors. We also encourage you to become familiar with your rights as a tenant.
  • When will I receive my acceptance deposit back?
    • Your deposit will be credited towards the tuition on your first bill; it will not be returned as a refund. If you do not see the admission deposit on your billing statement, please contact GSE

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