Financial aid application process
Overview of FAFSA and CSS Profile
- [Voiceover] We are here today with Sean Logan, Director of College Counseling at Phillips Academy. Sean, what I want to talk about today is, what are the forms that I need to fill out to get financial aid, need-based financial aid? - [Sean] So the first form that is going to be very important as it qualifies you for any kind of Federal funds, is the form called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the FAFSA. - [Voiceover] You said that's the Free Application-- - [Sean] for Federal Student Aid. - [Voiceover] for Federal Student Aid. And, I take it, by the name, that this a form that you don't have to pay. - [Sean] Right, and again, you want to be careful about that. There are several sites that will happily charge you money to fill it out for you, but it is really something that you can do and it's for free, and it's found at FAFSA.ed.gov. - [Voiceover] And what am I going to find on this one? What exactly and I going to be putting on it when I fill it out? - [Sean] So, what colleges are looking for is trying to get a sense of the family's resources and how much they can pay towards college. The general rubric with financial aid is what can the family afford first, and then after that, what federal funds might be available, what school funds might be available. So they're going to look at income, and this is a very much an income driven form. And they're going to look at who lives where the student lives, who lives in that house, and what are the resources of that house. - [Voiceover] When you say the "resources" of that house, what exactly do you mean by that? - [Sean] So, the income, assets that the house has, and so forth. - [Voiceover] And so, as a student, this might not be something that I know or have access to, so what do I need to do in order to be able to actually get this information? - [Sean] This form is really going to be a combination of the student working with their parents, and there is a part on this form that is for the student, and the student will fill that out in terms of any money they've made, savings they have, and so forth. And then there is another part of the form that is for the person who is living in the house. If that is a husband and a wife, great, if it is just one parent, whoever has the income of that house, they're going to look at that information as well. - [Voiceover] Great, and it sounds like given the level of detail that this information requires, the parents may need some forms and things on them while they are filling it out. What exactly do they need to have as they're filling out this form? - [Sean] So basically, the sooner the parent fills out their taxes for the year, they have their W-2s, they have their taxes, that's going to make it much easier for them to fill out this form. So, it's a lot of the same questions. - [Voiceover] When do students and parents need to be filling out this form? - [Sean] This form isn't available until after January 1st, but there is a pretty short turn-around time. Most colleges want this filled out and turned into them probably somewhere between February 1st and the middle of March. So this is a year where if you know you're going to be going to college, talk with your parents and let them know the sooner they can get on top of their taxes, get those done, the easier these forms will be to fill out. If they know they're not going to be able to fill out their taxes immediately, you can always use estimated numbers, or you can use last year's numbers, especially if things haven't changed dramatically in your family's financial situation. - [Voiceover] And why exactly do I need to get it in so quickly? - [Sean] Again, these are the deadlines that colleges are going to have, and it's very important to meet these deadlines. It's probably even more important than meeting the admission deadline is the financial aid deadlines, because most schools have a limited amount of money and they're going to use that money based on the students they admit and the forms they have in. So, if you wait until after you're admitted and find that out and then send in your forms, they may already be out of money. So it's really important to make the deadlines for these. - [Voiceover] OK, so once I do have the forms filled out and I submit it, what happens next? - [Sean] So, all the FAFSA does is use a formula that sort of crunches your families resources and comes up with something called an EFC, an Estimated Family Contribution, and that is a number that colleges will use to help them put together a financial aid package. So all that number says is, this is how much, based on the formula the government uses, how much they think the family can contribute to their son or daughter's education. So, say you crunch those numbers, you turn them in, and it comes back and says your estimated family contribution is $10,000, a financial aid office will then say, well if we're a school that costs $50,000, the family can pay $10,000, we're going to have to put together a financial aid package for $40,000 for that student to make it possible for them to come. - [Voiceover] And does the information from the FAFSA go directly to the schools, or does it go to the students, how does that actual transfer process occur? - [Sean] So you will get back something called a SAR, a Student Aid Report, and that will again give back to you here's all the information you put in, and will also give you what your estimated family contribution is, and is also sent to all the schools that you put on the form when you sent it in. The one thing to remember is you can only put 10 schools on that list, so if you're going to apply to more than 10 schools, once those are submitted you go back in sometime after that, you can take some of those schools off and put the other schools on there to make sure that everybody has the information they need. - [Voiceover] So, I fill out the FAFSA, it spits out a EFC which is sort of their estimation of what my family can contribute, and that is part of the student aid report, and that information gets sent to up to 10 schools and I can go and add more later, and they get that information, and they're going to put together some kind of financial aid package for me. And my family will contribute some amount and then the remainder is made up through what? What exactly other things could come from the school? - [Sean] A typical package that a school puts together is going to have probably three pieces to it. There's going to be Scholarships and Grant money, which is good, that's money you don't have to pay back. There's going to be loans, and loans are things you will pay back over a period of time. And there will probably be a Work Study Job, and that's a job that you'll have during the school year probably somewhere between eight to 10 hours, maybe upwards of 20 hours depending on the school, that money you make during the school year. - [Voiceover] And so I won't get that financial aid, I can't even qualify for that if I don't fill out the FAFSA. - [Sean] Correct. - [Voiceover] So, aside from the FAFSA, Sean, are there any other forms students typically need to fill out to get need-based financial aid? - [Sean] Most public schools only require the FAFSA form, other schools, a lot of private schools, may have their own internal form. - [Voiceover] In addition to the FAFSA? - [Sean] In addition, and there's another form out there that's used by a lot of schools called the CSS Profile, and that can be found on the College Board website. - [Voiceover] And I'm going to fill out the FAFSA, and I'm also going to fill out the CSS Profile, and that's going specifically to private schools, or more often used by them. - [Sean] More often, correct. - [Voiceover] What are some of the differences between the Profile and the FAFSA? What additional information am I going to be providing? - [Sean] So first of all, the CSS Profile does cost money. There's a fee to sort of fill out the form, and there's also a fee to send it to different schools. There also are fee waivers that are available for this, so you are able to again, do this without cost to your family. And the nice thing is as you fill out the form it will determine if you qualify for a fee waiver or not. - [Voiceover] Based on my family's income, that sort of thing, if it's below a certain level, I'll be able to fill out the form for free? - [Sean] Right. - [Voiceover] OK, so that tells me, how much it costs. What actually am I, what specific, if you know some specific differences. - [Sean] Sure, so on the FAFSA form, that really is only talking about the family the student lives with, so in that sort of home. On the Profile, they look at the resources of both biological parents, so even if there is a divorce/separated situation, they are going to inquire about both parents and their ability to pay, so that's a very big difference. Another difference with the CSS Profile is again it's used a lot by private schools for their institutional money they have, so they want a broader picture of what's going on in the household, so this takes into account things like, one of the big things it takes into account is home equity, and how much money you may have in home equity. - [Voiceover] And that means if I put money on a house or own a house, that get's counted in the profile, but that's not being counted in the FAFSA. - [Sean] Correct, so again, sort of getting a broader picture of your assets, a broader picture of what you're able to contribute. - [Voiceover] Ok, and are the deadlines for the Profile similar to FAFSA? - [Sean] They're a little bit different. So the college deadlines are very similar, so again probably between you know February 1st and the middle of March, so those are pretty standard. But the CSS Profile is available in the Fall of your Senior year. And one of the ways these private schools use the CSS Profile, a lot of these institutions have early action, early decision programs for admission, so they use the Profile as a way to give students a preliminary financial aid package. So if they are, again remember in a early program, the deadlines usually November 1, usually you found out sometime in the middle of December. And once you get the decision in December, they also would like to give you a preliminary package so you can determine, oh, I've not only been admitted to the school, but I've a package that will work for my family and myself. So you can use the CSS Profile in the fall. That will obviously be on last year's tax information because obviously this year's informaiton isn't finished by the fall. For both the FAFSA and the Profile, you will eventually submit your current year tax documents and W-2s so they can verify everything that's on there. - [Voiceover] Great, we've got the FAFSA, which kind of gets me access to Federal financial aid, and that's pretty much for all schools. - [Sean] Right. - [Voiceover] When I fill that out it will be after January 1st. I will get the EFC back and that will go on to the schools I am applying to as long as I specify them in the FAFSA. - [Sean] Correct. - [Voiceover] The Profile isn't required by all schools. It tends to be used more for private schools. They'll still require the FAFSA, also require the Profile, in that case it may ask some additional questions to find out about my home and if I have additional assets like how much value is in my home. It might also ask about if my parents are divorced what the parent that doesn't live with us is making. And these are both to give private schools more information, but also for early action, early decision, to let me access that financial aid. - [Sean] Right. - [Voiceover] Great, is there anything else that I need to know about the FAFSA or Profile before I get started on these forms? - [Sean] That will get you started, but again, the more organized you are with your tax information going into that year, the easier these forms are going to be. The other thing I would say is financial aid officers are always happy to help you with these forms. Use them as a resource.