Let’s talk about the elephant in the room that we all wonder and worry about when we are going through our child’s college admissions journey. Does everyone get financial aid? Well, the simple answer is, no. “Everyone” includes, well, everyone and there is very little in this world that EVERYONE gets. But let’s backtrack a bit and define what financial aid is. Financial aid is for students whose family has financial need in the eyes of the school, and the school gets to decide, based on the information parents and the student provide, whether a family has need or not. The information that gets submitted includes income and assets for, essentially, the parents of that student.
What “financial aid” does not include is merit funds that may be awarded. Merit money that is awarded to a student is based on their merit, their credentials, as it relates to that particular school. We won’t go into that here, but financial aid and merit funds are two separate buckets, budgets and money that is awarded to a student. For the purposes of this article, we are only speaking of financial aid.
Seeing If Your Qualify for Financial Aid – The Forms
The first step to seeing if you will even qualify for financial aid is to complete the financial aid forms that are required for a specific college. Those required forms and information can vary by school, so be sure to look on each school’s website to see which forms and information they require and be sure you submit these forms and information no later than their deadline, which also differs by school.
The first form everyone needs to complete in the financial aid application process (and for some schools this is the only form you will need to complete) is the FAFSA (Read our blogs How to Complete the FAFSA and When to Complete the FAFSA). This is the form supported and required by all colleges for federal aid and most colleges for institutional aid.
When you submit the FAFSA, amongst other information, it tells you your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) (Soon to be referred to as Student Aid Index). This is a very important number to see if you will qualify for financial aid. This number is what the federal government and/or institution says you can pay for one year of your child’s college education. As an example, if your EFC is $80,000, since there are no colleges, or certainly very few, that have a cost of attendance of equal to or greater than $80K, you will not qualify for financial aid. On the other hand, if your EFC is $25,000 at many schools you will probably qualify for financial aid. It is all relative to the cost of attendance of a specific school, what your EFC is and how generous this school will be for the student. This can depend on where you fall in their applicant pool, meaning how much they are wanting you to attend their college.
The CSS Profile
Approximately 400 schools will also want you to complete the CSS Profile. These schools use the CSS to calculate how much institutional financial aid, if any, they will award. This form is much more in depth than the FAFSA, asking for additional financial information. Even if parents are separated or divorced, for most schools, both parents will need to complete this form. With the FAFSA, only one parent completes the form.
Additional Financial Information to Help Determine Aid Needs
Keep in mind that there may be additional information and documents that a school may require, such as your tax returns. Please be sure to check with each school that your child is applying to so you can be sure to submit all of the information that is asked for by the deadline that is required for each school. Not doing so can eliminate or greatly reduce the maximum aid you would have received if you had followed their guidelines.
Not Everyone Gets Financial Aid
In the end, not everyone gets financial aid. Only those families that have financial need and are deemed by the school that the student should be awarded this aid will receive financial aid. As I always say, we just live in their world and have to follow their rules.
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