While keeping track of finances may not be of concern to some students, it is a valuable skill to learn for all. Students should take the time to sit with their family and discuss budgeting before arriving on campus for freshman year. Many unexpected expenses could arise and it is important for students and their families to establish a plan for how decisions about these expenses will be made and how they may be paid for.
As I receive copies of my students' award letters, I continue to be astonished by how complex and confusing these letters can be, especially for those not familiar with the financial aid jargon. It is disappointing that some schools continue to take advantage of the students and families by presenting their packages in very deceiving formats leading families to believe some colleges are more affordable than they actually are. An important part of the work I do with my families is helping them decipher these letters and make an informed college decision.
As college application season is fully underway, it is important to learn about the primary financial aid applications and types of aid your student could receive. The two most common applications used by colleges across the US are the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE, and they need to be filed prior to each year the student plans on attending college.
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the standard form used by all schools to determine the amount of federal aid a student will receive. The application opens on October 1 each year and closes the following June 30. The FAFSA calculates the EFC (Expected Family Contribution), what the government considers a reasonable amount the family should be able to contribute to the student's educational costs whether or not a parent wants to contribute to their child's education.