Conquering the financial aid application maze in today’s financial climate: FAFSA
The most important piece of college attendance is the process of acquiring enough money from financial aid, scholarships and family contributions to attend the school of your choice. No matter where you have been accepted to, you are only going to attend an institution that you can afford. It will all come down to money like everything else on this earth. It is extremely important that you have at least one school on your list of colleges that you will apply to or have applied to that you can afford with little help or no help at all.

The dilemma that most students and parents fall into is the notion that let us apply to all of the schools that the student is interested in and we will workout the financial details later (we will find a way to pay for it). This is one of biggest mistakes students and parents make every year across this nation. High school counselors and college advisers have and will continue to advise students and parents against such a reckless approach to the college admissions process. Many students have and will continue to scramble to find a school to attend in the month of May because of insufficient funds to attend the college of their choice.

To lessen the stress of college attendance, it is very important that each student has at least one (1) academic and financial safety school that they will actually attend if they don’t receive a good financial aid package from at least one of the schools on their list. Every student and parent should apply for financial aid every year using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is required by every institution of higher education. FAFSA is income driven and not asset driven. It is free to apply for Federal Student Aid. Parents and students should start this process in the fall of the senior year. Also, at this time students and parent should begin the scholarship search process. The financial aid package, for the most part, will include grants, scholarships, loans and work-study and you will not receive a financial aid package from any schools unless you file the FAFSA.

Conquering the small number of selective schools whom will require additional applications: CSS Profile
A small group of selective to very selective private colleges and universities will require that you and your parents fill out the CSS Profile financial aid application. This application can be filled out after the first of October of your senior year. The CSS Profile allows the institutions to collect all of your financial information and assets from you and your family. This application is asset driven and it will cost you money to apply.

These schools that uses the CSS Profile usually has large endowments, which allows them to be very generous with their financial aid packages. So, don’t be afraid to apply for financial aid because of the amount of information (financial information that you may consider private) that they want from you. The small Ivy League schools are the most generous when it comes to giving out financial aid packages to strong well-rounded academic students. Don’t ever be discourage from applying to schools with high price tag because in most cases, it will cost you a little more to attend one of these schools rather than your financial safety school.