Financial Aid Timing: Summer Aid and the FAFSA

If you would like to use federal financial aid for summer courses, you should plan ahead and be aware of a few important details. You’ll need to understand which year’s FAFSA to use and how annual aid limits work. You may also want to think about ways you can plan ahead to help meet any summer expenses not covered by aid.

Summer aid will be awarded beginning in April for students who have scheduled summer courses. If you have submitted a FAFSA for the 2017–18 academic year, you will be notified via email when your summer aid award is available to view in LionPATH.

Here are a few of the most important points you need to know about summer financial aid:

Know the enrollment requirements

At least half-time enrollment — 6 credits for undergraduate students and 5 credits for graduate students — is required for federal loans and many, but not all, other types of financial aid. If you plan to enroll less than half-time, we can help you determine whether you may qualify for any aid. Contact our Financial Aid team at 814-867-4244 or

Determine which FAFSA to submit

You must submit a FAFSA for each academic year in which you plan to use financial aid, and it’s important to submit the correct FAFSA for the corresponding academic year. Penn State’s academic years begin with the fall semester and end with the following summer semester — so the FAFSA for the 2017–18 academic year covers the fall 2017, spring 2018, and summer 2018 semesters.

If you wish to apply for aid for the summer 2018 semester, you’ll need to submit the 2017–18 FAFSA, if you have not done so already.

Be aware of annual aid limits

There are annual limits for federal financial aid, and summer is the final semester of the academic year. This means that if you used aid for the fall and spring semesters, the amount that you have remaining to use for summer may be limited, or you may not have any aid remaining.

There are annual limits to federal Stafford loans, which are determined in part by your grade level. If you used the full loan amounts that you were awarded for the prior fall and spring semesters, you may have already reached your annual loan limit.

In prior academic years, you could only receive up to two full-time federal Pell Grants or the part-time equivalent per year. Starting with the 2017-18 academic year, you can receive up to three full-time equivalent Pell Grants per year – one in each semester. To receive the Pell Grant in the summer, you must be enrolled at least half-time.

For students using Pennsylvania State Grants, these grants will not be available for online students for the summer 2018 semester due to a state funding issue.

If you are transferring to Penn State, you should be aware that any federal financial aid you recently used at another institution may reduce the amount you are eligible to receive at Penn State. Annual limits apply to you as an individual, across all institutions you attend in the same academic year. Your aid for the 2017–18 academic year, including summer 2018, may be affected if you attended a term elsewhere that ended in mid-2017 or later.

Finally, there are lifetime limits to Stafford Loans, Pell Grants, and Pennsylvania State Grants.

You can access your financial aid review at the National Student Loan Data System to check your aid history.

Learn how to decrease your loan amounts

If you do not need the full amount of a loan you are awarded for a semester, you can decrease your loan amounts. This may help you to plan ahead and ensure that you have aid remaining for summer, by not using the full amount of your loans for the fall and/or spring semesters.

You can decrease the amount of your loans in LionPATH before your aid has disbursed. If your aid has already disbursed, it may still be possible to decrease the amount of your loans, depending on how much time has passed since disbursement. If you would like to do this, you should contact the Penn State World Campus Financial Aid team at 814-867-4244 or

Consider other ways to meet your expenses for summer

If you have already reached an annual aid limit for the year and you are concerned about meeting your expenses for summer classes, you may want to consider saving any funds remaining from your spring aid refund, if you received one.

Penn State also offers several payment options, including an installment plan. You may also consider a private alternative loan.

If you’re interested, Penn State also offers financial literacy resources that may help you budget and plan.

Contact us to learn more

View our Summer Financial Aid Roadmap for more information. In addition, if you have any questions about summer financial aid or your individual situation, feel free to contact us at 814-867-4244 or