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The task of applying for financial aid is one of the most anxiety-ridden aspects of the whole college process. However, by being thorough, asking questions, getting started as early as possible, and most importantly, meeting all deadlines, getting the dollars you need for college can be a less harrowing experience than you might imagine. We can help by putting you in touch with college financial aid professionals. In some cases, we can speak to financial-aid offices on behalf of a student, but in most cases, the financial officer would rather speak to the student, parent, or guardian.

No deadline is more important than a financial aid deadline
Colleges with limited funds may use this deadline as a means of cutting you off from aid – or giving you a weaker package than anticipated. If you are applying Early Decision/Early Action, then the financial-aid forms are due in the fall; contact the admission office at the university or college to find out what information they need to make a good financial decision and offer you an appropriate financial package. For regular-decision candidates, please review individual college financial-aid resources for specific deadlines.

Financial aid nuts and bolts
In the final analysis, the cost of college rests primarily on the student and - especially - the family. However, because college costs continue to rise and colleges need to keep their schools filled with students, schools provide financial aid packages as a way to bridge the gap between what families can afford and the total cost. Financial aid packages are made of awards in grants, loans and work study and are based on calculations the colleges receive from forms such as the FAFSA, the CSS profile and their own financial aid forms.

Financial aid forms

Free application for federal student aid (FAFSA)
www.fafsa.ed.gov/ This is the application that every school requires. If you hope to get any kind of aid, including Stafford and Perkins loans or federal PLUS loans, this is the form that needs to get completed. Paper forms are available in our office in mid-November, but the online form is quicker. The FAFSA cannot be submitted until after January 1. Parents, make sure you get a PIN for yourself and for your child when you fill it out.

College Scholarship Service Profile
www.collegeboard.com/paying The CSS Profile is a form required by roughly 300 largely private colleges and universities. There is a fee required to submit this application and to send it out to each school. You can get started on the Profile by filling out a Profile worksheet. After submitting this to CSS, you will receive another, much more detailed financial aid application to fill out and return to CSS, which will then provide your information to colleges.

Institutional Forms
The colleges themselves may also require financial aid forms separate from CSS and FAFSA; you can check on this by calling the financial aid offices or by checking the school's financial aid section on the website.

Glossary of financial aid terms

Assets. Holdings in the form of cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, trusts and business equipment and inventory. All are considered in the formulation of the Expected Family Contribution.

CSS Profile. A financial aid form used by more than 300 colleges in order to supplement information received on the FAFSA. There is an initial fee to send a Profile report to each school, plus a nominal registration fee. Low-income families can qualify for a waiver of the registration fee and two reports. Please ask your college counselor if you think you qualify; the same methodology is used for SAT/ACT fee waivers.

Custodial parent. The parent with whom a student lives the most over the course of the previous 12 months, term used in cases where parents are divorced or separated.

Expected family contributions (EFC). The amount a family is expected to pay for college as indicated by calculations made upon completing the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile.

FAFSA (Free application for federal student aid). Form provided by the government and used by eveery college. This is the form you need to fill out in order to be considered for federal aid, such as the Pell Grant, Perkins and Stafford loans.

Federal aid. Funds in the form of loans and grants provided by the U.S. government. These include the Pell Grant, Perkins Loan, Stafford Loan and PLUS Loans. (Check www.studentaid.ed.gov for more detailed information on federal aid).

Financial need. The difference between a family's ability to pay and the total cost of attending an institution.

Gapping. Financial aid policy in which demonstrated need is not met fully by the institution.

Grants. Financial aid awards that do not have to be repaid.

Institutional aid. Funds in the form of loans and grants provided by the college itself.

Merit-based aid. Financial aid awarded in conjunction with a student's academic ability. The family's financial need is not considered for merit-based aid, also called a "merit scholarship."

Need-based aid. Financial aid awarded solely on the basis of the family's ability to pay.

Need-blind admissions. The policy of accepting or denying students without regard to their ability to pay.

Pell grant. Federal grant program which helps family with a very low EFC. Maximum grant is $4,000, depending on the EFC and the cost of attendance at the college.

Perkins loan. Funded by the federal government, this loan has the lowest interest rate, with the debt incurred by the student. Repayment of this loan is deferred until nine months after a student leaves school. Maximum loan amount is $15,000 for an undergraduate degree.

Plus loan. Federally sponsored loan administered by private lending institutions. PLUS loans are taken out by parents at a relatively low interest rate. Loan amount cannot exceed the balance of the total cost of attendance minus financial aid.

Preferential packaging. A financial aid package that is enhanced in order to entice a student to attend their institution. Preferential packaging may increase grants over loans, or provide more aid than a student's demonstrated need.

Stafford loan. Formerly called the Guaranteed Student Loan, the Stafford Loan can be subsidized for students who have demonstrated need or unsubsidized for students who do not qualify for financial aid. The interest on subsidized loans is paid by the federal government until six months after the student leaves school. For an unsubsidized loan, students pay the interest only after they graduate.

Student aid report (SAR). Report returned to you after completion of the FAFSA. It will include the EFC.

Total cost. All expenses involved in attending an institution of higher learning, including tuition, room and board.

Work-study. Federal program in which students are assured jobs in college in order to supplement their financial aid. Hours vary by institution, but do not exceed 20 hours per week.
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