Financial Aid & Resources

The financial aid application process happens outside of Common App. Students will typically use FAFSA and possibly CSS Profile to apply for financial aid. The expected release date of the new FAFSA will be December, 2023.

Introduction

Most students in the US do not pay the full sticker price for college. There is a possibility that you could receive financial assistance for college. In this section, you will learn:

  • Why it is important to apply for need-based financial aid
  • Where to apply for need-based financial aid
  • How to use loans to help pay for college and how to determine if loans are excessive
  • About merit aid and how to find colleges that give merit aid
  • How to create a list of colleges that are a good financial fit for you

Vocabulary

  • Total Cost of Attendance (COA): The total “sticker price” of a college. The total COA includes tuition, fees, room and board, books, transportation, and personal expenses.
  • Net Price: The total cost of attendance minus all grants and scholarships. Grants and scholarships are free money that does not have to be paid back.
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC): Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the amount of money that a student’s family is expected to contribute to college costs for one year.
  • Need-based aid: Need-based aid includes scholarships and grants, work study, and subsidized loans that students may receive to help pay for college. Need-based aid is awarded based on a family’s financial need.
  • FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application that must be completed annually by students in order to receive need-based financial aid. Almost every college uses FAFSA information to calculate the student’s eligibility for need-based aid.
  • CSS Profile: An additional application for financial aid required by approximately 175 colleges and universities for students applying for financial aid. These colleges and universities will require both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile in order to determine the amount of financial aid a student qualifies for.
  • Grants: A grant is a form of financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid.
  • Loans: A student loan is money that you borrow to help pay for college. You must repay the loan as well as interest that accrues.
  • Merit aid: Merit aid is non need-based financial aid that is awarded based on achievements related to things like academics, athletics, music or civic participation. Merit aid awards are not based on a family’s ability to pay.
  • Work Study: Work study is a type of financial aid that provides part-time jobs for students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses.

Videos

In this video, we provide an introduction to the Financial Aid tab of Common App and discuss some of the resources linked to in that section. This video takes approximately 3 minutes.

Financial Aid Section in Common App

en español


In this video, we discuss why families should ignore the sticker price of a college. The sticker price is not what many students pay for college. Instead, what a student actually pays is determined by what the federal government and the college calculate based on parent and student income and assets as well as demographic factors. This video takes approximately 11 minutes.

Financial Aid Information for College: Understanding Sticker Price vs Net Price

en español


In this video, we discuss the parts of a financial aid award and why you should apply for need-based financial aid. This video takes approximately 12 minutes.

Financial Aid Information for College: Understanding Need-Based Aid

en español


In this video, we discuss using loans to help pay for college. Student loans are usually part of financial aid awards. We also discuss how to distinguish between reasonable and excessive debt. This video should take approximately 12 minutes.

Financial Aid Information for College: Understanding Loans

en español


In this video, we discuss merit aid, what it is, who gets it, and where to find it. This video should take approximately 12 minutes.

Financial Aid Information for College: Understanding Merit Aid

en español


In this video, we discuss how to create a list of affordable colleges to apply to. There are three components of a smart college list: financial fit, social fit, and academic fit. We show students resources they can use to identify colleges that will be affordable for them and their family. This video should take approximately 25 minutes.

Financial Aid Information for College: Building a Smart College List

en español

Tips & Reminders

  • The expected release date of the new FAFSA will be December, 2023.
  • Approximately 85% of students in the US do not pay the full sticker price for college. There is a possibility that you could receive financial assistance for college.
  • Most students will have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to be considered for financial aid. Approximately 175 colleges and universities also require the CSS Profile, a second application for financial aid.
  • Applying for financial aid with FAFSA is free.
  • Students with little or no demonstrated financial need should look for colleges that are generous with merit aid. Students with moderate to high financial need should look for colleges that are generous with need-based aid.
  • To determine if you have high, moderate, or low financial need, you must calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). You can also calculate your expected costs at a particular college by using a Net Price Calculator (NPC) for that college. You can find links to these resources below.

Resources

College Board Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Calculator

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

CSS Profile – an additional financial aid application used by some colleges and universities

Find colleges that:

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License

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