Applying for financial aid is typically done by parents of seniors. It is a cumbersome process and is based on the head of household tax return which is submitted in or after January. Financial aid packages are prepared on a first come basis so it is in the best interest of the student to submit the financial aid forms as soon as possible after January 1st. If these forms are submitted in March, very often the financial aid budget has been depleted. Each year, the College Guidance Office hosts a Financial Aid Information Night with a knowledgeable guest speaker from a neighboring college or university. Parents are strongly encouraged to attend this session as early as ninth grade as you prepare and organize your finances for college tuition.
A Financial Aid Package consists of loans (which need to be repaid); grants (free money) and work-study jobs on campus. The financial aid package is determined by the financial need of the family. Once the FAFSA has been analyzed, the government determines the “expected family contribution” and then it is up to each college to put together a financial aid package that meets the gap between the family contribution and the combined costs of the tuition, room and board, books and other college costs. Financial aid policies differ from college to college so it is good to apply to a range of colleges if you want to compare financial aid packages. Also keep in mind that some of the most expensive colleges have the best financial aid endowments and can offer the most generous grants. The bottom line in financial aid is knowing what you can afford. You need to think about not only what you and your family can pay after calculating what the college can give you but also how much debt and work-study jobs you can take on and still thrive in college.
Applying for Aid:
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Pin numbers are required to access FAFSA on the Web and then they serve as the parent’s and student’s electronic signature before submitting the application. Pin numbers are created on the following Web site: www.pin.ed.gov. Paper FAFSA worksheets are available in the College Guidance Office if needed. The FAFSA must be filled out in order to apply for any government loans or grants, and it may be submitted as early as October of the senior year. After you complete the FAFSA online, you will receive the Student Aid Report (SAR). Be sure to review this report carefully! Correct any errors immediately so that colleges will have accurate information upon which to make their decisions.
Complete the CSS Profile online at https://profileonline.collegeboard.com as early as October of the senior year. The CSS Profile is mostly used by private colleges with money of their own to give away. They often times request additional information about your finances than what the federal government requests on the FAFSA. There is a registration fee, and additional costs to send the information to colleges once CSS Profile has processed the information. Please note that not all colleges require this form so it is important to research which schools on your college list require the CSS Profile as part of their financial aid review.
Some institutions have their own financial forms which need to be completed in order to receive federal or institutional money. Public universities often times have a separate form to fill out in addition to the FAFSA. Visit the financial aid Web sites of your colleges to determine which forms are required.