Financial Aid

 The most important words of advice we can offer are: Apply for aid! You will not receive aid if you do not apply.

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Please do not eliminate a college immediately because of price. If you do not mind disclosing the information requested, you have nothing to lose except the time required for completing the forms. The purpose of these forms is to determine your family's eligibility for financial aid.

So what forms are needed and who completes them?

The most widely used "needs analysis" form is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Any college to which a student applies for financial aid will require completion of the FAFSA. This form is used by colleges and some scholarship programs to determine a student's eligibility for federal and state financial aid, including TOPS. Many colleges will also determine distribution of their need-based financial aid on the information provided through the FAFSA. Again, a student cannot quality for federal aid unless he/she completes the FAFSA.

This form cannot be completed until after January 1st of the student's senior year of high school because it requires income information for the calendar year preceding a student entering college. So for 2011-12 graduates, the FAFSA cannot be completed until after January 1, 2012 and will require income and tax information from the year 2011. Both the student and his/her parent(s) must provide income information for completion of the FAFSA. It can be filed free online.

Depending upon the college or university, it is possible that the institution will have their own needs analysis form. This may be the third form required for application for financial aid. Again, check with the colleges and universities to which you will apply to see what forms are required.

Determine what forms are to be completed and when they are due as it is imperative to meet the financial aid application deadline established by the college or university. Each college will have their own deadline, normally beginning around February 15. Because these forms require information from the student's and parent's income tax forms, it is NOT a good idea to wait until April 15th to prepare income tax papers. It is a good idea to complete the FAFSA online because processing time is cut in half by doing so. The CSS Profile can only be completed online. When completing the forms, parents and students will be asked to itemize their income and assets, and list savings and earnings.

Working with this information, and taking into account such factors as family size, number of family members in college, and parents' ages, the federal processing agency estimates the amount that parents and the student should be able to contribute to the first year of college.

The information submitted is then processed on a computerized sheet (SAR). Once the forms have been completed, the student will receive (either by mail or email depending upon how the original form was submitted) a Student Aid Report (SAR). This is a verification form that requires the student to verify that the information initially reported is correct.

Copies of this computerized sheet are sent to you and to each of the colleges to which you list on your original FAFSA or CSS Profile. Once the colleges receive your Student Aid Report, they can begin to put together a financial aid package for you. Also on your SAR you will find the family's Expected Family Contribution or EFC. This is the amount of money the family isexpected to contribute to the student's education in the first year of college.

Students must re-apply for financial aid by completing the FAFSA every year.