financial aid overview
Helpful Hints for Financial Aid
- Help is available in the form of financial aid and scholarships. The total cost of college to you and your family may not be as high as it seems at first glance. You must be aggressive in researching aid packages. While all colleges offer financial aid packages based on need, some colleges and organizations offer money based on academic performance or merit.
- The FAFSA is required by all college financial aid offices, and the CSS Profile (put out by the College Board) is required by some colleges. Many colleges issue their own financial aid forms, which are part of the application. Always check with the financial aid office of each college to which you apply to learn what it requires!!
- All student aid packages are primarily Need-Based – determined by your ability to pay tuition, room and board expenses. Most colleges give out financial aid packages that are a combination of Grants or Scholarships (money that does not need to be paid back), Loans (usually paid back after graduation) andWork-Study (which requires the student to earn money by working on campus).
- See this extremely helpful checklist to make sure you're doing everything you need to do for Financial Aid.
Prior to giving you a financial aid package, all colleges require that you and your parents/legal guardian fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and often, the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile. The forms ask for a complete financial statement based on the previous tax year. Filing for the FAFSA and indicating residence in New York State will automatically register you for The New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) which, if awarded, can be used at any college or university in New York State. Several weeks after you file the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that states your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is then forwarded to the colleges and represents the amount you are expected to pay toward the cost of college.
- ALL NEED-BASED AID IS IN ADDITION TO THE EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION. It is important to file for financial aid prior to admission to a college. Check your college catalog for deadlines. File in January of your Senior year if possible. Some colleges have their own financial aid forms, so check with them early on in the process.
- The rule is “first come, first served.” Once you have been admitted, a college will send you a financial aid package, usually by April 15, indicating the amount of aid available in the form of loans, grants/scholarships and work-study. Often, the college will want to know if you qualify for a federal grant (Federal Pell Grant) or any grants from New York State (TAP, for example). Any local scholarship money you receive will reduce the amount of your financial aid package from the college.
- All students know that colleges have deadline dates for admissions. BUT… many schools also have deadline dates to apply for financial aid. Check your schools to see if there is a cut-off date. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to get the MOST aid possible.
- ALL schools will require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). SOME schools will require the CSS Profile (NOT free). SOME schools will have their own institutional financial aid form they will want you to fill out. To find out what forms your schools require – refer to the financial aid section of the application instructions.
FREE RESOURCES - Online Course on Financial Aid Applications!
Data on Domestic Undergraduate Need-based Aid and Merit Aid (August, 2017)
Many families may also find this link helpful. It offers info on schools with no loans!
Colleges Offering Generous Merit Aid
Cheat Sheet - How to Apply for Financial Aid