Steps to Apply for Financial Aid

Applying for financial aid is an important step to managing your education costs. Here are 10 steps to help you successfully apply for financial aid as a PennWest California student. 

If you need help or have questions, please be sure to contact the Financial Aid Office by email ( or phone (724-938-4415). The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday. 

Before proceeding with the steps below:

Steps to Apply

  1. Request, retrieve or reset your (and your parents, if you're a dependent) Federal Student Aid ID.

Your FSA ID lets you "sign" your online FAFSA, access and make corrections to your application information and more. Be sure to keep it safe.

  1. Collect your parents' and, if applicable, your income tax returns, Social Security numbers, W-2 form(s), and other records of income and assets. Tax information can be estimated and corrected later if a tax return has not yet been completed.

Get free information and assistance from your school counselor, PennWest California's Financial Aid Office, or the Department of Education: call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

  1. Know your Federal School Code: 003316 for PennWest California
  1. Complete IRS Data Retrieval or Submit IRS Tax Transcript.  

IRS Data Retrieval Instructions

IRS Tax Transcript Instructions

  1. Submit online your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Recommended deadline date: May 1 each year to ensure a state grant, and March 1 to ensure PennWest California institutional and endowed funding.

You can submit the FAFSA as early as October 1 each year.

  1. Monitor your student Vulcan Information Portal (VIP) for receipt of the FAFSA and any request for Missing Information and/or Documents.
  1. If you are selected by the Department of Education, ensure that you complete Federal Verification.
  • Be sure to retain copies of everything you submit to the Financial Aid Office. We take many steps to ensure your documents are secure and safe. However, from time to time, information you submit may not reach us. Keeping a copy of what you submitted can save you time and eliminate any unnecessary stress.
  1. Allow 4-6 weeks for award letter notification.
  1. Complete loan entrance counseling and Master Promissory Note (MPN).
  1. Allow approximately 3-5 business days after the add/drop period each term for your financial aid awards to disburse to your student account. 
  • After aid has been disbursed, the Office of Student Accounts will begin processing refunds. This usually happens about a week to 10 days after disbursement. 
  • Refund checks will either be mailed to the student's address or deposited into the student's checking account, based on what the student has chosen.