I know many of you are starting to worry about the financial aid process, so I will be sending out a series of emails over the month of September to help reduce stress and answer your questions!
October 1 is the first day you can access, complete, and submit the FAFSA and CSS Profile financial aid forms. 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
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 200+ 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
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)
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 in October:
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.
Parent's SSN, email address, and cell phone number
Only ONE parent needs to create a FSA ID
If parents are divorced or separated:
For 2023-24, the filing parent should be the "custodial parent" -- the one with whom the student spent most of his/her time
Moving forward, one of the FAFSA changes will be to require that the filing parent must be the one who provided the student with the most financial support
Gather Information that you will need for filing the FAFSA
Be sure your 2021 tax return is filed so that you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (but having a paper copy of your 2021 tax return handy is also helpful in case the retrieval tool doesn't fully work for you)
2021 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 September. Watch your email for more fun financial aid facts and tips!