October 1 – It's time for cooler weather and financial aid applications! Here’s everything you need to know to get the most out of aid packages.
Even if you don’t expect to receive any aid, it’s a good idea to apply for it because you never know what the criteria are for each school’s aid package. For my own son, there was a $40,000 difference between our estimated contribution per year at 2 very similar schools (in terms of ranking, rigor, and cost). They were even in the same city. Also, you never know what may happen to change your financial circumstances in a given year. Remember COVID?
There are 2 financial aid platforms: FAFSA for federal aid and the CSS Profile for institutional aid, which is run by our friends at the College Board. If you are applying for financial aid (and you should—see above), you will need to fill out the FAFSA. The CSS profile is optional, but many institutions will also want to see it for determining institution-based aid.
Both platforms open on October 1. You will need to fill them out each year you plan to apply for financial aid. Aim for applying by October 15, though the deadline isn’t until June 30. The closer you can apply to the October 1st date, the better your chances are at securing aid. Also, schools will ask for additional information based on your application through the CSS, so make sure you check status often. One school asked what kind of cars we drove.
Prepare by getting 2019 tax information together and documentation of major expenses like medical and private school tuition; also records of other sources of income.