Applying Yourself Part 2!

So yesterday we talked about the FAFSA, the main Federal financial aid application that you need to compete annually, once for each student planning on applying for financial aid.

Today we are going to take a quick look at the second financial aid form many of you may need to complete, the CSS Financial Aid Profile.

It ain’t just the FAFSA!

The CSS Financial Aid Profile is an application form used by a number of private not-for-profit colleges as a supplement to the FAFSA. The information on the Profile (which is what I will call it for the rest of this post) is used to determine how much institutional financial aid (translation: grant or scholarship) will be awarded by the college that uses it to the student applying. That means that if your college wants you to complete the Profile, you should complete the Profile!

Unlike the FAFSA, there is a (small) cost to you to use the Profile. As of right now, the cost is $25 for the first college and $16 for each additional college you list. For first-time college applicants who come from families with lower-incomes, the College Board does offer fee waivers; simply fill out the CSS Profile online and you will be told if you qualify for a fee waiver.

Like the FAFSA, the Profile goes live October 1 for the following school year (so October 1, 2018 for the 2019-2020 year). Also like the FAFSA, you can list multiple colleges on your initial application (and that is recommended). Since there is a cost per college, though, you do want to make sure your college really wants the Profile. To confirm this, you should either visit your college’s financial aid web page or take a look at the list of participating colleges on the CSS Profile web page. Like the FAFSA as well, the Profile is entirely online so be prepared to answer questions using your web browser. As of now there is no mobile app for it.

In future posts we’ll talk more about why it is important to apply for financial aid from your college directly, but for now you should know that colleges and universities provide more money every year in grant and scholarship funds to students than the Federal government does, so completing the Profile is a “must do” if you plan on asking for every kind of financial aid for which you might qualify. Keep in mind that most public schools (both universities and community colleges) generally don’t use the Profile. We’ll talk more about what forms they use in our next post!

Applying Yourself

So how do you apply for financial aid? Maybe you’ve heard of this thing called the FAFSA or maybe you know something about some college scholarship application, but what’s the real deal? What do you really need to complete, and when should you complete them?

Moneyman is here to help you!

Don’t Worry, Keep Filing Forms!!

So when you apply for financial aid, there are several forms you might need to complete. Let’s review them one at a time! In today’s post we will tackle the FAFSA.

The first form you need to know is the FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This application is a Federal application and is indeed free to use (never pay anyone to complete your FAFSA). The application needs to be completed every year you plan to be in school, and if you have other members of your family who plan to be in school, they need to complete a FAFSA each year as well. The application goes live on October 1 on the year prior to your school year (in other words, the 2019-20 FAFSA went live on October 1, 2018) and while you want to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible, as long as the school year is still is session (and you are attending) it is never too late to do the FAFSA.

To complete your FAFSA you will need to get an FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID). The FSA ID is your electronic signature which you will use to sign the FAFSA. Both the student and (for dependent students) at least one parent will need to get their own FSA ID which they will use each year to sign the FAFSA. The FSA ID will also be used by students to sign other financial aid related forms and to sign into other webpages (some examples include student loan paperwork and financial aid history).

On the FAFSA you will list ALL of the colleges to which you are applying for admission (whether or not you have already been accepted). Since there is no cost for applying using the FAFSA, you should list any college you are considering. Each college has a specialized school code that they should list on their web page (or you can just look it up inside the FAFSA application itself).

You can complete the FAFSA by visiting the FAFSA webpage and completing the form online, or you can download the myStudentAid mobile app and complete the FAFSA on your mobile phone (available for both Apple ioS in the iTunes Store and for Android phones in Google Play).

So that explains the application for Federal Financial Aid. More to come soon about the other forms required for financial aid, including the CSS Profile and the Florida Financial Aid Application!

Taking Stock

Every January many of us pause to reflect on the year that has been and to make resolutions which will keep us focused on the year to come.  We “take stock” and reflect upon who we have been and set goals for who we intend to be.  This annual process for many of us is a chance to set an agenda, to establish ourselves anew, and to chart a course for our future.

While this blog has been established to be a place to learn about financial aid for all who might be interested, it also has been specifically established for those of you taking stock – Take Stock in Children, that is.

Take Stock in Children Florida

Take Stock in Children is an amazing program based in Florida which was established in 1995. From their web page, their stated purpose is to provide “…a unique opportunity for deserving low-income youth/students, many from minority families, to escape the cycle of poverty through education [by offering] college scholarships, caring volunteer mentors and hope for a better life.”

As I launch this blog, I want to welcome those of you who have found this place because of Take Stock in Children. I hope you will find the posts and information I share here very informative and helpful as you continue your way on your college search. As we each reflect on who we are and what we can become in the year ahead, I hope you too see a bright future ahead for you, and I hope that in some small way, what you learn here can help you on your way to future growth!

Love the Mystery?

I love mysteries. Do you? I love sitting right on the edge of that “I want to know how it ends / I don’t want it to end” moment, where the excitement is real and the tension is high.

But I also love the relief when the answer finally comes. Knowing how the plot works out, how the hero solves the crises, comes as a huge relief.

Mysteries abound where we most seek for answers. — Ray Bradbury

Interesting, since my purpose in keeping this blog (as well as I can) is to dispel the mystery about college financial aid.

I have worked in the field of financial aid for more than 30 years. I have worked at small private not-for-profit colleges, large urban highly selective universities, open access community colleges, lenders, servicers, and technology consulting firms. My job has always been to be a part of the mystery behind helping families pay for the cost of college. I’ve always had a wonderful group of peers and colleagues who work to make sure that we do the best we can to help families afford the expense of college.

But sometimes I wonder if students get lost. If they think of the financial aid process kind of like a deserted island, full of pitfalls and unseen monsters.

So this blog will kind of be a “what do I need to know now” guide along with my rantings and ravings on whatever subject seems to be around and about. Feel free to engage me in dialogue, although if you want your conversation with me to be private, please email me at moneymandtb at gmail dot com (expressed this way to avoid spam).

Looking forward to seeing how this experiment turns out, and hoping that you too will find your way to the answer to your own mystery.

What kinds of mysteries puzzle you about the college financial aid process? What answers are you looking for? Share your thoughts in the comments and I will address them in the coming posts.