Financial Aid Forms
There are two main financial aid forms - the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and CSS Profile. The FAFSA is required by all colleges; the CSS Profile is required by approximately 400 colleges. Big changes are coming to the FAFSA for the 2024-25 school year (students who apply to college next fall) so stay tuned to learn more - but read below for preliminary information.
The FAFSA is the form that every student must fill out to get federal financial aid for college. Students (and parents if the student is a dependent) fill out the form each year the student is in college (this continues for grad school). The US Department of Education uses the information submitted on the FAFSA to determine how much a family should be expected to pay towards the student's year in college. This used to be called the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) but starting this fall, will be know and the Student Aid Index (SAI). Students don't receive aid from the FAFSA - it is the form which helps determine how much financial aid a student will qualify for - and that aid can come from the Federal Government, the State Government or the college itself.
When you fill out the FAFSA for the first time, you list the colleges where you will apply, thereby giving the college access to your data so they can determine whether the student will qualify for money from the college ("institutional aid") as well as financial aid from the federal government in the form of federal grants, work-study and/or loans.
The FAFSA is free to fill out, submit and the information gets sent to your colleges free of charge to the student.
With big changes (a "simplification" passed by Congress in 2020, but to be implemented for the 2024-25 school year) it is important for parents to understand the new timeline, as well as new questions. Click here to read one article on what parents can expect with the new FAFSA, and here to read a second piece with additional information.
Article with important advice on filling out the FAFSA:
FAFSA Walkthrough Video:
CSS Profile Information:
The CSS Profile (College Scholarship Search) is administered by The College Board. It is an additional financial aid application form beyond the FAFSA and is required by approximately 400 colleges, universities and scholarship organizations. It is used by colleges to award institutional aid, but families must still fill out the FAFSA to qualify for state or federal grants, scholarships or loans.
The CSS Profile is more invasive than the FAFSA and asks for things such as equity in your home, retirement accounts, medical bills and tuition bills for siblings. It is important for families to understand that colleges have limited amounts of financial aid of their own to distribute to students and those colleges that use it rely on information from the CSS Profile to determine who will be offered that aid from the college.
There is a cost associated with the CSS Profile: $25 to be sent to your first college and $16 to send to each college after that. Fee waivers can be obtained from College Board on a limited basis - students should talk to their high school counselor for additional information
CSS Profile Resources:
Article with information on the CSS Profile and what you will need to fill it out:
CSS Profile Walkthrough Video: