The time for College applications & the FAFSA has come. This can be a very exciting, albeit stressful time. Where do you apply to? What exactly are the FAFSA & CSS forms you keep hearing about? Where do you even start? I am going to break it down in 3 easy steps.
Step 1: Apply for admission to the college/s you have chosen
You must apply and be accepted to a college in order to receive a financial aid reward. APPLY EARLY –some schools give discounts. Many colleges’ financial aid deadlines are February 15th or before. Haven’t completed your taxes? Still apply, financial aid tends to be based on a first-come basis. You can report actual figures as corrections to the Student Aid Report.
Application Forms Must be Filed in Order to Appeal –you should file the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE forms even if you do not initially qualify for financial aid. An appeal cannot be made, unless these forms have been filed. Also, unless the application forms have been filed in prior college years, some colleges will not consider the student for future financial aid.
Step 2: Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form & CSS Profile forms.
The filing deadline for the FAFSA is June 30th of the college year for federal financial aid funds. Colleges may establish their own deadline for filing this form for their financial aid funds. I recommend you apply as close to the October 1st opening as you can. The student and at least one parent must sign the FAFSA. (Unless the student is considered an “independent student” – 24 years, veteran, graduate student, married, ward of state, parents deceased etc.)
The College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile form is used by some private colleges. The CSS form came out for the 2020-21 school year came out October 1, 2019, and each school or program sets its own deadline. But you should submit no later than two weeks before a school’s priority filing date. Like the FAFSA, certain colleges have their own deadlines for filing this form. The CSS may require the applicant to answer questions in addition to the basic application questions. These questions are known as "Section Q Questions" and unfortunately, there are no instructions on how to accurately answer these questions. The individual college determines what questions will be asked of applicants to their particular college.
Step 3: Receive and review the Student Aid Report (SAR).
In four to six weeks (one to two weeks when electronically filed) after filing the FAFSA form, you should receive the SAR or Student aid form. This form indicates your expected family contribution. If you review your SAR and find a mistake, you will need to correct or update it.
Once the SAR is correct, send a copy to the colleges you are applying to. Note that about 30% of submitted student aid reports are requested to be verified so you may be asked for additional information
Receive and review the colleges' Award Letters. The Award Letter states the amount of the financial aid and the types of financial aid offered to the student. A student may accept, deny, or appeal any part of an award letter.
Have additional questions on preparing for the FAFSA or CSS? Schedule a complimentary consultation with Rachel Gustafson, Certified College Planning Specialist™