The Basics of Financial Aid

Now is the time to start thinking about how you and your family will deal with financial aid. From filling out the FASFA to checking the box on the Common Application, this process can be a bit complicated. Read on to learn about things you can do to make the process much easier.


Go to the FASFA4caster and fill in information to receive an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. You can apply for and receive your Federal PIN, which is required for the real FAFSA. You will learn what kind of information is necessary to have on hand to complete the FAFSA and then you can transfer data from the FAFSA4caster to your FAFSA in January when you’re ready. The site will calculate an estimated Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which will help with college planning. Once you determine your EFC, you can go to College Navigator to find the current cost of attendance for any school you are interested in.

You can also go to financial aid website for each of the schools on your list and use “the net price calculator.” It is now mandatory for every college to have a calculator for families to estimate financial contributions. The information requested usually mirrors questions asked on the FASFA and CSS Profile. Here are a few examples: Santa ClaraCAL and USC .


Needing financial aid and applying for financial aid are actually different. After determining your EFC, you need to decide if you want to submit the FASFA and/or the CSS Profile. Some schools require one or both of the forms for merit-based aid and if you want to be considered for a Stafford Unsubsidized Loan or a Parent Plus Loan you must fill out the FASFA. Check school financial aid websites for more information.


Next you should investigate if the schools on your list are need-aware or need-blind.  Need-blind means that the admissions process and the financial aid process are separate. Financial need is not taken into account when making final decisions about applicants. Need-aware means schools might consider your financial situation when making a decision.

In general, at need-aware schools a student’s financial need only impacts

a very small percentage of decisions at the end of the process.

The best thing you can do is visit financial aid websites or contact financial aid offices of the schools on your list to determine if a school is need-aware. Schools do not try and hide this fact.

Click here for more information about need-aware schools.

Click here for the details requested on theFASFA and the CSS Profile.

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