Paying for College

What is Cost of Attendance (COA)?

COA is the amount it will cost you to go to school. Most two-year and four-year colleges calculate their COA to show the total cost for the school year (typically for the fall semester plus the spring semester).

When should I complete the FAFSA?

Oct. 1 is the first day you can file the FAFSA. You should try to file as close to this date as possible.

Do I have to complete a FAFSA every year?

Yes. You must submit a FAFSA each year to continue receiving need-based aid.

What FSU's school code on the FAFSA?

FSU's school code is 001489.

How is my “financial aid" determined when I apply for financial aid?

A standard formula established by the U.S. Congress is utilized by the federal processor of your FAFSA information to determine your family's ability to contribute to the cost of education ("Expected Family Contribution"). After receiving your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) amount from the processor, the Financial Aid Office determines your financial need by subtracting your EFC from the cost of attendance. The balance reflects your financial aid need and it determines the amount of aid that you can receive.

How do I find scholarships?

Scholarships given by colleges are the most common type of scholarships. Check out a college’s website, catalog and financial aid materials for information on the scholarships it offers. To find more scholarships, you can use free services that collect information on thousands of awards. These services match the details you submit with scholarship guidelines and then present you with a list of possibilities to choose from. Be wary of any service that charges money to match you to possible scholarships. They could be a scam.

Will an additional outside scholarship affect my overall financial aid award?

Possibly. Scholarships are a resource that becomes part of the aid used to meet your demonstrated need as determined by the FAFSA. If an outside scholarship results in your receiving more aid than the federal processor indicates you are eligible to receive, you may lose other aid. This will depend upon the type of other aid you are receiving.

Should I take out a student loan?

If your scholarships, grants, income and savings won’t cover the cost of college, consider taking out a loan. It should be a last resort and you should only borrow what you need. The bad news is that loan interest and fees mean that you will be repaying more than you originally borrowed, but the good news is that a college education can increase your career opportunities and your future salary. This means that taking out a college loan — as long as you borrow wisely — can be an excellent investment in your future.

Planning and Budgeting

What are steps for financial planning and budgeting as a college student and beyond?

Creating a financial plan allows you to determine in advance whether you will have enough money to cover your basic needs, as well as make purchases for things or activities you want and enjoy. By creating a balanced financial plan, you can establish financial habits that allows you live with more financial freedom and reduce the potential for increased financial debt.

Here are seven steps to creating a budget:

  1. Set realistic goals
  2. Identify your income and expenses
  3. Separate needs and wants
  4. Design your budget
  5. Put your plan into action
  6. Plan for Seasonal expenses
  7. Look ahead

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What are considerations when thinking about going to graduate school?

Earning a graduate degree can open new career opportunities, however it is important to weigh the costs of pursuing continued education with the benefits of an advanced degree.

  • Explore reasons for considering graduate or professional school and if an advanced degree is necessary for advancement in your career field.
  • Connect with graduate programs of interest to inquire on financial aid options and expenses (tuition, books, housing, etc.)
  • Explore scholarship, grant, and fellowship opportunities.
  • Calculate your current debt and the debt you may incur from student loans in comparison to your projected income post-graduate or professional school to weigh the cost benefit, and time it may take to pay off your debt.
  • Create a budget and a plan for debt repayment.

For resources and information:

What information do I need to effectively evaluate and negotiate a job offer?

Understanding the steps involved in evaluating job offers can help you feel prepared to accept, negotiate, or decline the job offer. Common information included in a job offer is the reporting structure, job title, start date, and details about salary or benefits.

  • Do your research ahead of time. Get an idea of what the standard salary range is for a particular industry and a particular role within that industry.
  • Know geographically what the competitive salary is for the positions and industries you are considering.
  • Calculate your cost of living for the geographic area in which you pan to live, and develop a monthly budget based on basic needs, other expected expenses, and some elements of comfort that are within reason.
  • Consider more than just salary when evaluating an offer. Consider factors such as relocation expenses, start date, work tools (e.g., phone/laptop, internet discount), health insurance, retirement benefits, vacation and sick leave, stock compensation, and other incentives that you value.

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What are options in the instance I find myself unemployed?

Keep these tips in mind during this period: give yourself time to process the job loss, lean on your support system, take time to form a plan in moving forward and try to remain positive during this time. The following resources can be helpful in receiving re-employment assistance in your time of need.

  • Visit a Career Advisorfor Drop-in Career Advising for assistance
  • Access the Career Center’s Re-employment Resources for comprehensive information and resources

For resources and information access:

Banking and Credit

As a student, what impacts my credit score?

It may be tough for students to maintain a high credit score without understanding the ways in which it is determined. Your FICO credit score is dependent on:

  • Payment history
  • Amounts owed
  • Length of credit history
  • Credit mix
  • New credit

How can students build credit?

Before students start building their credit, they should first focus on laying the foundations for financial security. This can be accomplished by creating a budget, setting up an emergency savings account, and securing a stable source of income. Once students have completed these steps, they can shift their focus towards building credit. Students can strengthen their credit by:

  • Borrowing only what can be afforded
  • Using student loans
  • Using a credit card
  • Becoming an authorized user
  • Reporting rent payments to credit bureaus
  • Monitoring credit reports

Investing and Insurance

I don’t know how to invest. How would I get started?

The best way to start investing depends on your financial goals, as well as how much money you can afford to invest. But if you don’t have a whole lot of extra cash lying around, don’t worry. There are plenty of investment vehicles to choose from. You can even invest with $100 or less. A good rule of thumb is to never invest money that you can't afford to lose. If you break this rule and your investments don't pan out, then you could find yourself struggling to pay your bills at the end of the month.

Should I Save for Retirement While I'm in College?

While you are in college, the long-term goal is landing a good job so that you will have the extra money to put away each month. You should also make it your primary focus to stay out of debt. The less debt that you have when you graduate, the sooner you will be able to pay it off and begin focusing on retirement.

Some college students will take their loan money or grant money and invest it in mutual funds because the rate of return is generally higher. But it's never a good idea to use borrowed money to play the stock market—you may set yourself up for a financial disaster later.


I do my own taxes without a tax advisor. How do I learn what to do?

Florida State University cannot provide students with tax advice. You can contact the IRS by phone (1-800-TAX-1040) to ask questions or through their website to obtain publications and forms

What types of payments are considered taxable income for students?

There are several types of payments to students who attend Florida State University, and each has its own taxation implications. These payments are separated into two categories:

  • Non-taxable:
    • Scholarships or fellowships used for qualified tuition and related expenses.
    • Student refunds for account overpayments and/or excess Title IV funds
    • Student reimbursements for the purchase of a service or good while acting as an “agent” of the University or club.
  • Taxable:
    • Prizes and awards offered to student.
    •  Funding provided to student via stipend payment so that student may attend conference or conduct research unless such expenses are for university purposes.
    • Funding from stipend payment intended to cover room, board, or personal expenses.

(This information is not intended to replace advice from a certified tax specialist or accountant)

Are there tax breaks for college students?

As a college student, it is possible that you are eligible for the following tax deductions and credits:

  • The Tuition and Fees Deduction
  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)
  • The Lifetime Learning Credit

(This information is not intended to replace advice from a certified tax specialist or accountant)

What forms do I need to file income tax returns?

Students who are residents will file federal income-tax return with a Form 1040. Students who are non-residents will file Form 1040-NR. Students may also need to include additional forms, such as Schedule C if they are self-employed. Students should receive W-2s to report income along with taxes withheld from full-time or part-time jobs, or 1099s reporting income earned from freelance work. Students may also receive Form 1098-T showing tuition paid and Form 1098-E reporting student loan interest payments. Students with investments may receive Form 1099s from their brokerage firm or bank.

(This information is not intended to replace advice from a certified tax specialist or accountant)

Where can I learn more about student taxes?