Financial Aid To-Do List

College financial aid can be intimidating.  We hope this post will give you some resources to get started, whether you have a current high school senior, or a younger student.

If you have a high schooler who’s NOT a senior, start here: watch both videos, click all the links and download all of the resources in this blog post.  This will help you understand the fundamentals of how college financial aid works.

College Financial Aid

If you have a high school senior, this is your financial aid TO-DO list – right now:

  • Do a practice EFC on the College Board’s website.  When it asks, choose BOTH the federal and the institutional methodology.  It’s good to just get a feel for what your EFC will be before you get started with all of this financial aid stuff.
  • Paper FAFSA – print out and do a practice run.
  • Here’s a list of stuff you’ll need to complete the FAFSA.
  • Here’s a list of colleges that require the CSS Profile – check every school on your student’s list.
  • If you’re separated or divorced, only the custodial parent needs to fill out the FAFSA.  Custodial is defined as the parent with whom they lived more during the past 12 months.  If the student lives the same amount with each parent, report the parent who provided more financial support for child over last 12 months.  They are NOT looking at who claims the student on their taxes.
  • If you’re separated or divorced, and your child is applying to colleges that require the CSS Profile, this page and the tutorials provided will likely answer most of the questions you have.  (The #1 question we hear is whether or not divorced parents who fill out the CSS Profile will be able to see each other’s financial information – the answer is NO.)
  • If your child is applying to UC campuses, and your total family income is less than $80,000, you need to know about the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan.
  • If your California-resident child is applying to UCs and/or CSU campuses, and your total family income is less than $177,000, you need to know about the Middle Class Scholarship Program.

If you’ve heard one of our team give a presentation about college admission, you’ll know that the biggest source of money that helps students pay for college is money that comes from the colleges themselves.  The money that comes from private and outside scholarships is smaller in amount and usually one-time, whereas the money that colleges give is larger and usually renewable.  However, you need to make sure that your student has colleges on his/her list that GIVE money!  Because there are many that do not give merit scholarships at all.  So the money is in the list.  The magic is in the list.  The key to financial aid is truly in the list.  If you don’t understand this, you may end up disappointed in the spring.  The top webinar on the post linked at the top of this page explains this further.

Hope this helps!  Best of luck with your financial aid work.  Call us if you need some support!

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