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Need a little help understanding financial aid for college?

October 26th, 2021

Financial aid forms can seem like a daunting task on a laundry list of documents to complete before the application process is finally finished. For families applying for need-based aid, here are the main forms parents should be aware of:

  • The FAFSA is the most commonly discussed college financial aid application; it’s used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal student aid, including grants, work-study and student loans.
  • The CSS Profile is an application required by many private colleges and a small number of highly competitive public universities in addition to the FAFSA. This form takes a closer look at a family’s entire financial picture.
  • Institutional forms are required in a very few cases; each college’s financial aid website will specify if so.

Financial aid policies vary from college to college, so parents must review each school’s financial aid instructions carefully to be sure they are submitting everything required for consideration. Many great resources are available online to help guide you and this US News article linked below provides the “ultimate guide” to help you through this process.

Article linked below from US News written by Farran Powell and Emma Kerr published on December 7, 2020

A Guide to Understanding Financial Aid for College

Many families are shocked by a college’s sticker price. While the price of tuition can be overwhelming, college financial aid can make higher education affordable.

In fact, income and savings represent only a few of the resources families use to pay students’ college expenses, according to the 2020 Sallie Mae/Ipsos survey How America Pays for College. The survey found that for a typical family, scholarships and grants covered 25% of college costs in 2019-2020. Scholarships and grants are two types of college financial aid that don’t need to be repaid.

With the complexity of paying for college, navigating the financial aid process can seem challenging. Here are a few answers to common financial aid questions.

Read more at US News >>


CSS Profile vs. FAFSA: What is the difference?

October 15th, 2019

Understanding need-based financial aid can be overwhelming, and through this blog post we hope to alleviate some of your confusion. The first question that many families ask is, “How do we apply for aid?” While students apply for admission, parents seeking need-based assistance take care of the financial aid application process.

There are two principal forms to understand: all colleges use the FAFSA in computing financial aid award packages, and some private colleges also require the CSS Profile to review a family’s financial resources from a different perspective. Every college offers a financial aid section on its website, where you can find highly detailed information about both process and requirements.

With both FAFSA and CSS Profile live as of October 1st, questions naturally arise. We’re often asked, “What, exactly, is the difference between the two?” The article linked below from NerdWallet lays out the basics of both FAFSA and Profile pretty clearly.

Please note: on today’s blog post we focus primarily on need-based financial aid, but many families are interested in merit scholarships as well. While both need-based and merit scholarships provide college students with financial assistance, a merit scholarship is generally unrelated to demonstrated financial need; instead, it’s based on a high level of achievement in academics, athletics or the arts. We’ll devote a future blog post specifically to merit scholarships.

Article linked below from NerdWallet, published September 30, 2019, written by Anna Helhoski

CSS Profile vs. FAFSA: How Are They Different?

To get financial aid for college, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. But your school may also want you to submit the CSS Profile, an additional application that determines state and institutional financial aid.

» MORE: Your guide to financial aid

The FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal aid like the Pell Grant, work-study and federal student loans if you attend most colleges that participate in the Title IV federal financial aid program. The application is also often required by states and schools for their own scholarship and grant programs.

The CSS Profile is only used by certain schools, listed on the CSS Profile site, as part of their financial aid process for aid like grants and scholarships.

To read more go to Nerd Wallet>>

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Applying for financial aid: FAFSA and CSS PROFILE

February 13th, 2017

Parents of high school seniors have likely already finalized their FAFSA and PROFILE forms, as they are now available on October 1st each year.  How nice to have that completed!

Parents of juniors, however, are just beginning to wade in to the process.  In today’s blog, we link you to an article posted by  This educational writeup provides a helpful walk-through of what lies in store on the financial aid front.

The first step in receiving federal student aid for college is completing the FAFSA (Federal Student Aid) form.  The next step, for many, is the CSS PROFILE, an application required by hundreds of colleges and universities to award financial aid from sources outside of the federal government.  This task can be overwhelming and stressful; however, there is a lot of great guidance available online to guide families’ efforts.

This Forbes article provides an excellent, detailed review of the process – one of the best we’ve seen – and we encourage readers to share it with others who may benefit from the information.

Article below published January 8, 2017

Written by:  Troy Onink

If you ever wondered how your income and assets are counted against you when your child applies for college aid, and if there is anything you can do to maximize your aid eligibility — wonder no more. Updated for 2017, this comprehensive guide to college financial aid includes new tips and insights to help you estimate how much your family will be expected to contribute toward the cost of college and how to maximize your financial aid eligibility. This guide will help you gain a clear understanding of how the college financial aid system works with straight-forward explanations of expected family contribution (EFC), need-based financial aid, merit aid, and how your income and assets count against you on the FAFSA and CSS Profile college aid forms.

Applying for College Financial Aid

The process of applying for need-based financial aid for college begins by students and parents completing one or two financial aid forms, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and/or the CSS Profile.

Read more at Forbes >>

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FAFSA changes

September 12th, 2016

In previous years students have filed their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on or after January 1st.  No need for waiting any more!  The federal education department will now open the application process as of October 1st in order to line up more effectively with the college application process.  We’ve been hearing about this change for some time but we wanted to save this article to share as October draws nearer.

While October 1st is the opening date for FAFSA forms to be filed, it is by no means a deadline.  Each college sets its own deadline for financial aid application completion. In this New York Times article, many of your FAFSA questions will be answered; however, it is always important to pay close attention to each college’s financial aid requirements.

An important note:  some private colleges, especially those that are more selective, also require the CSS Profile and/or their own institution’s supplemental application. Every college’s financial aid website spells out steps and requirements quite clearly.

Takeaway:  to be certain your financial aid applications will be completed for review, keep track of what’s needed, as well as related deadlines.

Article below published August 10, 2016

Written by:  Ann Carrns

As college-bound students prepare for a new school year, they should be aware of a new date that’s important for future financial aid: Oct. 1.

That’s the new, earlier date after which students can file the Fafsa, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The infamous form is used to calculate how much students and their families must contribute to the cost of college, and how much help they will get in the form of grants, scholarships and loans. Students seeking financial aid must file the form, used by most states and colleges as the gateway to financial aid, each year.

Read more at New York Times >>

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