Greetings Parents and Student– Class or 2021
It’s the start of Financial Aid and Scholarship application season- and I want to get you up to speed on that process. If you’re confused- I invite families of seniors schedule a conversation if you have any questions about the process and particularly if your potentially unique/odd etc. circumstances require some guidance in the navigation of the standard FAFSA and CSS Profile. Please ignore misguided information, rumors, speculation – I can assure you there is absolutely no increase in your aid package for filing tomorrow or ASAP. We file by due dates- mostly January (ED is an exception and some state colleges) and the size of your aid package is completely unrelated to the date you submit your FAFSA. Let’s get it right – not rush. Financial aid and Merit Scholarships are two different beasts- I’ll explain that all in this note.
If you’re a student completing your Common App 2020-21 – there’s a question asking if you want to be considered for financial aid. Please indicate “yes” to the question on the Common App regarding “need based aid” – there is no impact on your admissions- we refer to this as “need blind admissions”.
WHEN to Apply for Financial Aid?
NOTICE THAT THE DUE DATE for PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS is DIFFERENT FROM CURRENT STUDENTS and you’ll find the dates for each college under the “Financial Aid Incoming Students” section of the college’s website. If you’re an international student, please also ask me about the unique process. It’s important to meet that due date- but no prizes for being early.
When, HOW and WHERE do I apply for financial aid? FAFSA and CSS PROFILE??
The process to apply for financial aid involves at minimum – filing a FAFSA and for most private colleges, a secondary form – a CSS Profile. FAFSA is a federal and free form and the CSS Profile is sponsored by the College Board and there’s a cost. The CSS Profile also requires separate forms for both the custodial and non-custodial parent. Here’s the quick look at this process and then more details follow below with clickable links. Please follow my four-part blog series which follows to understand how your aid is calculated and additional information about scholarships and understanding the sticker price
– YES YOU CAN AFFORD COLLEGE!
First, let’s get a rough idea of your eligibility for financial aid — if you haven’t already done so – there’s an estimating tool at the link below for the FAFSA4CASTER– this will show you what you can be expected to contribute based on hypothetical levels of income and assets. This is a non binding unofficial tool- you should have no fears of experimenting here.
If The FAFSA4CASTER indicates your Estimated Financial Contribution (EFC) estimates are above $60k – there is little if any aid to be received as the cost of attendance exceeds all public universities and is close to the cost of most private universities at 65 to 75k. Assistance will go to families with more perceived need. Your EFC is a number for the family- so if you have two students in college – that number is shared per student. Again, regular readers of my blogs and newsletters know the importance of shaping your balance list of colleges to include financial safeties potentially leveraging awards later in March. There is ZERO negotiation with Ivy League colleges– this by design- they don’t try to outbid one another.Rough guide- families at $150k in W-2 Earnings EFC $30k (unbelievable but true – there is a link below to the algorithm of the EFC calculation). It’s important to understand how your aid is calculated so you can engage in proper planning.
It’s also important to avoid scamsters on social media offering to help you reduce your EFC by shady and illegal practices– I gringe everytime this information crosses my FB newsfeed and wish I could send up a warning flag. There is no magic – and you shouldn’t pay anyone to help you file a free form or mess with your data- because the form is straightforward for most people. The complex and unusual situations aren’t handled on the form but in direct communications with college admissions officers AFTER you are accepted and receive your award letter. Tha’s where I can guide you best to negotiating your aid package. There is much guidance needed for the CSS Profile and college specific forms- but the FAFSA leaves little room for changing any variables within your control. Any service that advertises otherwise could get you into a ton of trouble.
It’s also important to understand that while the FAFSA is a federal form – essential to receiving any federal aid you might be entitled to (i.e. Pell grants or subsidized student loans), the primary reason you’ve filed this form is to generate an EFC and that value is used by colleges to determine what if any aid package to award. It’s their money and how they decide to provide aid had nothing to do with the government. This week some angry person called me claiming “I pay a ton in taxes” and somehow felt entitled to ask me how he could hide his money and receive more aid from FAFSA. FAFSA doesn’t award anything – it’s just a form – a form used to guide colleges in determining whether to give your student any money that ALUMNI and private investors have donated for this purpose.
— Apply for a FSA ID – this is requirement and necessary to be able to sign in and sign off on your actual FAFSA – An FSA ID is needed for both the student and the CUSTODIAL parent.https://fsaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm <<<< Do SO ASAP
In addition, if you are a male within 6 months of your 18th birthday- please register for selective service- that is also a requirement to receive any federal aid.
— FAFSA applications. When we are ready to begin, I strongly recommend you file one college at a time to preserve the privacy of where else you are applying. It also is essential to show only one college on your FAFSA if you’re an ED /EA applicant. Unlike the Common or Coalition apps where each college has no access to where you’ve applied- a batch FAFSA would show each college where you applied- and we don’t want that to occur. So we submit one college, wait 24 to 48 hours for confirmation and then proceed to “amend” the FAFSA – adding another college – one at a time until all are submitted. Time consuming- but that’s what I recommend.
FAFSA has a “link/retrive to IRS” process- making this a fairly straightforward form for you to complete. The link is to your 2019 Federal 1040. If 2020 was a difficult year — we have a process to providing that information to colleges. Other data you’ll need to have on hand include the amount of money in savings, checking, college (529 or state pre-pay) , & retirement funds for both the custodial parent and student. If you have any “complex” issues that don’t fit the questions or windfalls from house sale, one time bonus, inheritance, or other oddities- let’s talk before you enter large numbers that affect your EFC.https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa <<<< The process to submit a FAFSA is here
— Unusual — that means- income going up or down widely from 2019 2020 to 2021 – job loss, windfall gains/losses, With the pandemic, it’s very likely your family had a reduction in income or revneues in a business, potentially experienced extraoridnary medical expenses, separation/divorce -all of this – including supporting family abroad in troubled communities- please let’s talk.
RULE OF THUMB_ divorced or separated families – the lower earning parent (and that includes the income of the remarried spouse) should be listed as the custodial parent. If necessary – update and amend the 2019 tax form and school address to align. The gains to financial aid are significant and outweigh the puny tax deduction of one child. I can walk both parents through this discussion and maintain your privacy from your ex-spouse on financials.
Please stay tuned for my four part series coming next week on understanding how financial aid is calcualted, how to pay for college and how to find and apply for scholarships.
Professor EmeritusCornell University Florida Alumni Rep.Educational & College Admissions Consultant30+ Years Experience
College Admissions &Academic AdvisingServing Clients In-Person in
Best wishes for a absolutely meaningful and enriching 2020-21. B
onnie Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.Educational & College Admissions Consultant
South Florida 561.509.0021
Boulder/Denver 720 737 9944
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. is the founder and principal educational consultant of College Career Consulting, LLC. She has over 30 years of experience as a university faculty member and shares her knowledge, professional resources and support with students who are ready to advance their lifelong educational and career journeys.