Honest communication between parents and students is essential for choosing a college that is feasible and reasonable as a financial obligation. The discussion about money, costs, and projected spending can be a difficult one, but it is best to begin this discussion early so that you, as a student and family, can make reasonable college choices.
TYPES OF FINANCIAL AID
SOURCES OF FINANCIAL AID
Many private colleges offer institutional aid (money that belongs to the school, not the government). Most will require the College Scholarship Service (CSS) PROFILE form in addition to the FAFSA. You may register for the PROFILE online HERE. Consult this site to determine which private colleges require submission of the profile. Some schools require the PROFILE to be submitted by November 1 of senior year.
WHERE TO START?
Visit schools’ Financial Aid websites to find out:
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the earliest deadline. The FAFSA is available every year on October 1st.
WHAT IS THE FAFSA?
If you have any financial need, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is a form that collects demographic and financial information about the student and family. Even if you don’t think you would qualify for financial aid, you and your parents should complete the FAFSA since many schools require it for merit scholarships.
The FAFSA is filed electronically HERE.
Information from the FAFSA is used to calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is the amount of money a student and his or her family may reasonably be expected to contribute towards the cost of the student’s education for the following academic year. The EFC is almost always higher than you think it should be!
Most questions about the FAFSA can be answered HERE.
You may contact customer service at FAFSA at 1-800-433-3243.
STEPS TO FEDERAL STUDENT AID*
1. Get free information and help from the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend, or the U.S. Department of Education HERE or 1-800-FED-AID. Free help is available any time during the application process. If an organization offers to help you through the process, and charges you a fee, it is a scam! YOU SHOULD NEVER HAVE TO PAY FOR HELP with financial aid.
2. Get a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, a personal identification number. An ID lets you apply, ‘sign’ your FAFSA, make corrections to your application information and more – so keep it safe. Go HERE to get your FSA ID. Both a parent and student need an FSA ID.
3. Collect the documents needed to apply. A full list of what you will need is at www.fafsa.ed.gov. The list includes: Social Security number; alien registration number (if applicable); federal tax information or tax returns; records of untaxed income; cash, savings, and checking account balances; and investments other than the home in which you live.
If you don’t have all of this information yet, you can still start the FAFSA, save it and finish it later.
4. Most colleges require that you file the FAFSA by January 1-February 1 for Regular Decision applicants. Apply as soon as possible after October 1 to meet school and state aid deadlines. Apply online at FAFSA on the web (the fastest and easiest way) by going to www.fafsa.ed.gov. If you don’t already have your ID, you can get it when you complete the online FAFSA.
The U.S. Department of Education will send you your Student Aid Report (SAR) – the result of your FAFSA. Review your SAR and, if necessary, make changes or corrections and submit your SAR for reprocessing. Your complete, correct SAR will contain your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – the number used to determine your federal student aid eligibility. IMPORTANT: Do not assume that the EFC number is the amount you will have to pay for college. It is simply a guideline for schools to assess how much need you have.
The college that you plan to attend may request additional information from you. Be sure to respond to any deadlines, or you might not receive federal student aid.
The colleges will tell you how much aid you can get at a particular school. Contact the financial aid office if you have any questions about that aid being offered. Review award letters from schools to compare amounts and types of aid being offered. Decide which school to attend based on a combination of (a) how well the college suits your needs and (b) its affordability after all aid is taken into account.
Once you have decided on a school, you will need to formally accept the school’s aid offer. If you are offered student loans, borrow only as much as you really need! If it is not clear, ask the financial aid office when and how your aid will be paid out, what it will cover, and how much money will come directly to you once tuition and fees are paid.
WHAT IS THE CSS (COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP SERVICE) PROFILE?
There are about 200 colleges that require an application called the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA. Those colleges use the CSS profile to assess the student’s eligibility for the college’s own institutional aid dollars. The CSS Profile is going to ask much more in depth questions about your finances. Unlike the FAFSA, it usually also requires input from both parents, even if divorced.
You may register for the CSS PROFILE online at https://profileonline.
FINANCIAL AID PACKAGES
Based on the EFC, each college to which the student has applied will develop a financial aid package.
Financial aid packages can vary widely and are usually a combination of scholarships, grants, loans, and work study.
HERE is a great article that will help you read your financial aid packages:
Start looking now! Even small scholarships can make a difference!
Federal Student Aid: studentaid.ed.gov
Americorps Program: nationalservice.gov
MD Higher Ed Commission: mhec.maryland.gov
Central Scholarship: central-scholarship.org
Baltimore Comm Foundation: bcf.org
College Board: collegeboard.com
Scholarship.com : scholarship.com
Broke Scholar: brokescholar.com
Going Merry: goingmerry.com
College Express: collegeexpress.com
The Scholarship Page: scholarship-page.com
Petersons Ed & Career: petersons.com
College Scholarships: collegescholarships.com
Tuition Funding Sources: tuitionfundingsources.com
Gates Foundation: gmsp.org
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation: jkcf.org
Horatio Alger Association: horatioalger.com
Calvin Coolidge Pres Foundation: CoolidgeFoundation.org
Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation: coca-colascholarsfoundation.
Taco Bell Foundation: tacobellfoundation.org
American Indian College Fund: collegefund.org
Org of Chinese Americans: ocanational.org
Hispanic Scholarship Fund: hsf.net
Hispanic Heritage Foundation: hispanicheritage.org
Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund: apiasf.org
US Pan Asian Amer Chapter of Commerce Ed FoundationL: uspaacc.com
United Negro College Fund: uncf.org
Thurgood Marshall: thurgoodmarshallfund.net
Jackie Robinson Scholarship: jackierobinson.org
Ron Brown Scholar Program: ronbrown.org
Tom Joyner Foundation: tomjoynerfoundation.org
International Education Fin Aid: iefa.org
International Scholarships: internationalscholarships.com
Study Abroad Scholarships: studyabroadfunding.org
This is just a sampling of websites/resources. Google, google, google! Check with local employers, churches, and community organizations.
Want an early glimpse at how much money you may receive for college?
Use Net Price Calculators and the Federal Student Aid Estimator.
The Estimator will give you an early estimate of how much the federal government thinks you can afford for one year of school.
Every college is required to have a Net Price Calculator (NPC) on the college’s web site. The NPC provides a student (and his or her parents) with a personalized estimate of the one-year net price of the college for the student. Note that this is an ESTIMATE. Google any college and ‘Net Price Calculator’ or visit a school’s financial aid website.