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Financial Aid is determined by a number of different factors; it is not determined solely on earned income, thus some families may see a more affordable price point at an out-of-state private college than an in-state public university. So go ahead and apply!

Students apply for financial aid using two different applications. The most common is the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It is universally accepted by colleges and is the form that helps student access various federal scholarship programs. This form is available for the following school year, beginning on October 1st. In order to complete it, families will need to input tax data for the past year; they can either estimate them or complete them early. The link at the bottom of this section will walk you through setting up an account and completing the form.

The other form used by some colleges is the CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service Profile), provided by the College Board. Colleges that accept the CSS Profile use the information in this form in their own way and determine how much aid is awarded using their own algorithms. This is available in the fall of the current year and is often used by schools with early applications to estimate the financial award for applicants. There is a small fee charged each time students send a profile to a college. Again, the link is included at the bottom of this section.

There are two basic philosophies that schools use to award aid. There are need-based awards that rely on family financial information to determine the amount of aid given, and there are merit-based awards that are driven by a student’s performance/participation in various areas. The need-based awards were discussed above, but the merit-based awards can be both specific to individual colleges and offered through scholarship programs. There are many local scholarships that are available to students at CDS, and these are often more accessible than some of the larger, national ones. As the scholarships come to CDS’s College Counseling office, we will pass them along to students that qualify for them.

Families often ask about the term “Expected Family Contribution” or “EFC”. That number represents the capacity of a family to contribute to a student’s cost of education. It is created from the financial data provided on the FAFSA and/or the CSS Profile, and takes into account factors such as income, assets, family size and number of children attending college. Because schools use the CSS Profile in different manners, the EFC often differs slightly at different institutions. Because factors that determine the EFC can change, students must reapply for aid each year. In order to get a sense of what your EFC might be, each college is federally-mandated to have a Net Price Calculator on its website. Filling in some basic information will provide a decent understanding of how much a family could realistically be expected to contribute to their child’s education.

Financial Aid is an important piece of the college process for many families. It is very important that families are transparent about their financial realities with their child’s college counselor so that the office can best counsel them. Below, please find a few more resources and links to help guide you through the process!