Paying for college is sometimes more mysterious and stressful than the college search. But as with all things, the more knowledge you have, the more smooth the terrain over the short and long hauls.
Paying for college can be a complicated and mysterious process. The resources here supplement Roycemore’s annual workshop on Paying for College and individual counseling meetings. They are meant to provide a roadmap for the terrain ahead.
College counselors and financial aid officers tend to agree that all families of college bound students should submit an annual FAFSA, whether or not a family seeks financial aid. Among the reasons why:
Families can gauge what federal standards are for a family’s contribution toward their child’s education.
Many colleges that offer non-need based merit scholarships require families to submit a FAFSA for consideration for merit scholarships. Note: merit scholarships at some institutions can be significant.
Note: The FAFSA uses tax return information from “prior prior” years, which essentially means financial data from two years ago. This makes the FAFSA cycle twenty months long, and opens up starting the process as early as a student’s junior year.
Families that have had significant changes in income in those interim two years can work directly with college financial aid offices to adjust estimated family contributions. Advocacy can be well worth your effort.
CSS - Administered by the College Board, this is an additional form sometimes required by private colleges in addition to FAFSA.
Check the financial aid webpages for the colleges on your list to determine whether you will also need to complete the CSS.
Fee waivers are available to families that have received previous College Board fee waivers (e.g. for SAT and AP exams)
The CSS asks additional questions to gauge not just family income but family expenses in order to get a fuller portrait of a family’s true financial need.
Financial Aid Tool Kit for Griffins
fafsa4caster. A forecasting tool that provides an early estimate of your Estimated Family Contribution (EDC) and your eligibility for federal student aid. This information helps families plan ahead for college. It is recommended not just for families of juniors but also middle schoolers wanting an understanding of the often complex financial aid landscape.
The Net Price Calculator (NPC). The Federal Government requires all colleges and universities to provide an online calculator programmed to demonstrate to families likely financial aid awards and estimated family costs for their institutions. You can find it on the financial aid webpage for any school you search.
College Results Online. The Education Trust. (This is the best site for comparing four year and six year graduation rates, which can affect the true cost of college.)
External Scholarships Students can sometimes benefit from pursuing relevant external scholarships to offset the costs of college. A scholarship is considered “external” when the funds come from an organization outside the student’s college or university. Scholarship winners and families should work with college financial aid offices to determine how the scholarship impacts the student’s financial aid package. Some colleges adjust their institutional aid, while others assume the external scholarship helps “close the gap” in covering expenses otherwise not covered by other grants and scholarships. Each college has its own best practices, and it is important to know what they are and they might be navigated.