Federal Loan Application Process

Step-by-step guide for applying for financial aid

STEP 1. Apply for a PIN.

Apply for a PIN at www.pin.ed.gov or link via www.fafsa.ed.gov so you will be able to e-sign your 2014-2015 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Master Promissory Notes (loan applications). You may also begin to complete your FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov and save your data until you receive your PIN.

STEP 2. Complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Complete the ‘14-‘15 FAFSA once you have finished your 2013 federal income tax return. The FAFSA is the key document for determining eligibility and must be completed online and submitted to the Federal Processor as early as possible using your 2013 federal tax information. It is never too late to apply for the upcoming term. Thunderbird will receive the information electronically as long as our school code (G01070) is listed. Within 72 hours you will receive an email from the Federal Processor with a link to your electronic Student Aid Report (SAR). Review the report and your responses carefully. If the SAR letter questions anything on the information you submitted, follow the instructions on the form and make the corrections or contact the Financial Aid Office for assistance. Once the SAR is correct, print/save a copy for your records. If you do not receive your email notification about your SAR within two weeks call 1-800-4FEDAID to check the status.

FAFSA preferred filing dates: 
Fall - March 1
Spring - September 15
Summer - February 15
The FAFSA is valid for Fall 2014 through Summer 2015 terms

STEP 3. Follow Up

All discrepancies or conflicting data indicated on your SAR must be resolved in order to continue the financial assistance process and receive your financial aid notification email. This may include verification documents. The Financial Aid Office communicates with you what information and documents are required to resolve any issues; you may also review your SAR for details. If the SAR does not find any discrepancies or conflicting data, this step may be skipped and your file is considered complete.

**Please note you must be an admitted student (offered admissions) to move beyond this step.**

STEP 4. Receive Intro Emails

These emails introduce the staff, reiterate the financial aid steps and share additional information for you to consider prior to matriculation. 

STEP 5. Receive File Complete Email

This email will outline tasks to do in preparation for receiving your Financial Aid Award Notification Letter (eligibility), such as complete entrance counseling and review the Thunderbird Learning Environment (TLE). You will also be sent a user name and password for Access Thunderbird, by our IT department, which will allow you to view, accept and/or reject your financial aid awards once you receive your Financial Aid Award Notification Checklist email. This will be sent to you about a week after you receive your File Complete Letter.

STEP 6. Receive Financial Aid Award Notification Information Email

This is the first of two Financial Aid Award Notification emails. The Step 6 email discusses how we award you and explains why we are asking you to take certain actions when you receive your Financial Aid Award Notification Checklist email.

STEP 7. Receive Award Notification Checklist E-mail

When you receive notification that your Financial Aid Award Letter is available, you will be asked to review your award information online through Access Thunderbird – this is when you will use your login information that was sent to you by our IT department. Your specific awards, for which you are eligible, will be listed. Follow the instructions in the notification email to accept and/or reject the aid offered to you for all the awards listed. To ensure you receive funds by the payment due date or as quickly as possible after the first day of classes, you must accept your awards within 10 days of receipt of this email as well as complete all items noted in the checklist in a timely manner. (Should be at least 30 days prior to the payment due date).

  • Accept/Reject your Financial Aid
  • If you accepted the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan and the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan, you will need to complete two separate Master Promissory Notes (MPN), one for each loan/award program, at https://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/index.action.
  • Online Student Loan Entrance Counseling. All federal financial aid recipients are required to complete an entrance counseling session (one time per school). Thunderbird will not certify a loan if loan entrance counseling has not been done. To complete the Entrance Counseling for the Federal Direct Stafford and Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans go to the following link: https://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/index.action.

If, after you receive your award information, you decide:

  • You do not need the amount awarded, contact us at finaid@thunderbird.edu with the net amount you desire to receive.


  • You no longer need financial aid, please reject the awards listed.

STEP 8. Follow up - Award Notification

Within 15 days of receipt of your Financial Aid Award Notification Letter, if you have not completed all the items on the checklist in your Financial Aid Award Notification letter, you will be sent a reminder notice of what must be completed before our office may continue with the loan process. Should timely action not occur, you may be required to pay your bill even if financial aid funds are expected.


STEP 9. Loan Application Processing (Origination with the Department of Education)

When the Financial Aid Office receives confirmation that you have completed all the items on the checklist in your Financial Aid Award Notification letter, your loan(s) will be originated/certified and the information shared with the Department of Education. Since the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan is credit-based, the Department of Education will approve/deny the loan within 48 hours once originated.

Financial Aid will notify you that loans have been originated via email once this step is completed.


STEP 10. Funds Post

Once the Department approves the loan(s), Thunderbird will post funds to student accounts shortly before classes begin or usually within 7 days of processing (originating) the loan(s). Student eligibility is reconfirmed (enrollment, etc.) and the Bursar’s Office is informed. You are sent a notice from Financial Aid indicating which funds have been received and the amount posted to your account. A hold on these funds may occur if there are any new discrepancies that need to be resolved. If this happens, we either recalculate eligibility for the financial aid or contact you to resolve the discrepancies and handling of the funds. If financial aid funds are not covering all charges, you will need to make arrangements with the Bursar’s Office regarding payment by the published payment due date.

STEP 11. Refund of Credit Balance (Excess Funds)

If financial aid funds posted to your student account are greater than your allowable charges, a refund will be processed toward the end of the first week of classes. Funds arriving during or after the first week of classes will be processed within 5 business days. If you wish to have any excess funds sent to your bank account by Thunderbird, you need to complete the ACH/Wire Transfer Request and Authorization Form and submit it to the Bursar’s Office via email, in person or via fax at 602 978-7787. This form is located on the Accounting and Finance MTB page under Student Forms.