I know many of you are starting to worry about the financial aid process, so I will be sending out a series of emails to help reduce stress and answer your questions!
October 1 is normally the first day you can access, complete, and submit the financial aid forms. THE FAFSA WILL BE DELAYED UNTIL DECEMBER (OR POSSIBLY AS LATE AS JANUARY 1ST). The CSS Profile will open, as normal, on October 1st. Do not try to jump the gun and get started early – you will be filling out the wrong version of the form by starting prior to October 1st for CSS Profile or before the new FAFSA is released in December.
FAFSA & CSS PROFILE: WHAT ARE THESE FORMS?
It is not often that you need to file a FAFSA to be considered for merit-aid scholarships
The FAFSA is required at all colleges for the student to be considered for needs-based financial aid:
Federal subsidized student loans
You may also file the FAFSA to be considered for federal unsubsidized student loans (not necessary to prove financial need to take out those loans)
Subsidized federal student loans
The government pays the interest while the student is in school and for a period of 6 months after graduation
Requires financial need under the federal methodology
Limited to no more than $3,500 in year 1, $4,500 in year 2, and $5,500 in years 3 and 4 (but your college will determine whether you can borrow that amount as a subsidized loan or not)
Unsubsidized federal student loans
Interest accrues from the time of origination
No financial need requirement
Amount you can borrow set by the college in your aid package (but no more than $5,500 in year 1, $6,500 in year 2, and $7,500 in years 3 and 4 total (including subsidized loan amounts too)
If the student is applying to any of the 150+ colleges (mostly private) that ALSO require the CSS Profile, you will need to file this additional form through the student's College Board account. You can see a list of colleges that require the form here
To be clear, you would never file only the CSS Profile -- the CSS Profile is filed in addition to the FAFSA for those colleges that require it
SHOULD WE FILE?
If your household income exceeds $200,000, there is not much likelihood that you will receive needs-based financial aid
If your household income falls in the $100,000 - $200,000 range, your needs-based aid is likely to be very low or non-existent except at some of the most selective colleges
If your household income falls between $60,000 - $100,000, your student is likely to receive some needs-based aid at some colleges (this is less likely at large state public universities)
HOWEVER, even students from higher-earning households may want to take out unsubsidized federal student loans, and in that case, filing the FAFSA is a requirement.
If you only want to give your student the option to take out unsubsidized federal student loans as needed, you can file the FAFSA later after the student has made a final decision about where to enroll (more on that later)
SHOULD WE ANSWER "YES" OR "NO" TO THE APPLICATION QUESTION AS TO WHETHER THE STUDENT WILL SEEK FINANCIAL AID?
On the college-specific questions in the Common App (or other school-specific applications), your student may see a question that asks "do you intend to pursue needs-based financial aid?" There may or may not also be a question asking whether the student plans to pursue or be considered for merit aid scholarships.
The "do you want to pursue or consider for merit aid scholarships" question is easy: YES! Never turn down free money. Even if the student's academic profile is average or even below the mid-point for the college in question, answer "yes." There is nothing to lose!
The "do you plan to pursue needs-based aid" question can be a tougher one to answer.
Do you have definite true financial need (household income that is less than $100,000 or certainly if less than $60,000)? If so, you should answer "yes."
If you only want the ability to take out federal student loans or you want to just have a FAFSA on file in the event of changed financial circumstances, answer "no" because you can file a FAFSA after the student has selected their college for enrollment with that college specifically and institute the process for federal student loans next spring or summer
If the student is applying for more selective colleges that do not offer merit aid and you cannot afford the full price, please consult with us. Some colleges are "need-blind" and assess each application on its merits without regard to the student's financial circumstances. Other colleges are "need-aware," meaning that as they shape their class for admissions, they have their budget in mind (thus indicating you plan to pursue needs-based aid could affect admissions). There are not many need-blind institutions.
Note: answering "no" and then filing the FAFSA and CSS Profile anyway will only confuse or delay the admissions process.
If filing the FAFSA is a graduation requirement but you don't expect to qualify for needs-based aid and/or don't want to accept any student loans, file it and only list 1 of the student's likely schools
WE THINK WE'RE GOING TO FILE -- HOW DO WE START?
Here are the steps you can and should do now to set yourself up for less stress:
FSA IDs -- You can create the FSA IDs you will need to file the FAFSA ahead of time. It takes a few days after filing before it is fully-verified and ready to use in filing the FAFSA. You can watch a short informational video on creating the FSA ID here
Student -- The student needs his/her own FSA ID. The student should create their own FSA ID (parents shouldn't create it on the student's behalf)
Student email address -- don't use a school email for this purpose since that email address won't remain operational during college
Student's cell phone number
Parent -- ONE parent needs to create a parent FSA ID (unless married but file taxes separately -- in that case both parents must create their own FSA IDs).
Parent's SSN, email address, and cell phone number
Only ONE parent needs to create a FSA ID (unless married & filing separately)
If parents are divorced or separated:
Note the change this year: In years past, the filing parent was the custodial parent, but with the new FAFSA changes, the filing parent must be the parent who provides the most financial support to the student (if parents truly provide equal 50-50 support to the student, it is possible that the default will be the higher-earning parent)
Gather Information that you will need for filing the FAFSA (CSS Profile data is more extensive and covered in another email)
Be sure your 2022 tax return is filed so that you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (but having a paper copy of your 2022 tax return handy is also helpful in case the retrieval tool doesn't fully work for you)
2022 W2s, K-1s,1099s and other records of earned income
529 plan statements
Stocks, bonds, mutual fund statements (if any)
Value of owned real estate (other than your primary residence)
Sources and amounts of untaxed income, such as child support payments & interest earned
Hopefully this has answered some of your questions, but I will be sending out additional information throughout the next few weeks. Watch your email for more fun financial aid facts and tips!