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Q:  Who should complete the student financial aid form?  A:  People who want to save money


I often hear a question from families: ”Why should I fill out the financial aid form?”  The assumption is that they make too much money to qualify for financial aid.  There are two financial aid forms: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile.  The latter tends to be used by expensive private schools that are generous with using their own resources for need-based aid.  Because they give out a lot of money, that form is longer and more thorough than the FAFSA.


Families Who Qualify for Need-Based Aid Should Apply for Financial Aid to Save Money


More families qualify for need-based financial aid than you might think.  Some families are surprised to learn that they qualify for need-based financial aid at some colleges even though they earn over $200,000 annually.  One way a family can find out how much financial aid they will likely get is to complete the Net Price Calculator for each college the student is considering.  You can find this calculator on each college’s website.


When I worked in education research in the early 1990s, we learned that 10 percent of families who qualified for a full Pell Grant never applied for financial aid.  They thought the application was too complex.  Beginning with the FAFSA released at the end of 2023, however, it is very streamlined.


Families Who Would Qualify If the Primary Wage Earner Died Should Apply for Financial Aid


Yikes!  Sorry, but this can happen when a student is in college.  Many colleges are need-aware when deciding to admit or deny a student.  If a student is at one of these colleges and the family did not apply for financial aid when the student applied for admission, the college might refuse to provide need-based aid after admission.  Some colleges will provide need-based financial aid, but only after a one-year waiting period.  One way a family can test whether this is a reason to apply for financial aid is to complete the FAFSA and leave the wages of the primary earner off the form. 


Wait – won’t my kid be at a disadvantage for admission if we apply for financial aid?  Not necessarily.  Some colleges say they are more likely to admit students when they see a strong ability to pay on a financial aid form.  If your student would likely qualify for financial aid with that income missing, the family should probably apply for it.


Families That Want Merit-Based Financial Aid Should Apply for Need-Based Financial Aid


What?  Some colleges require families to apply for need-based financial aid to qualify for merit-based financial aid.  Even if none of the colleges your kid is looking at require applying for need-based financial aid, you still should complete the form.  I recently organized a presentation on financial aid that included an admissions official from a private college.  During his part of the presentation, he spoke about appeals for more merit-based aid.  When a family appeals for more aid, he asks if they completed the FAFSA.  If the family says no, the college typically denies the request for more merit-based aid.  The college assumes that the family has not tried its best to find resources to pay for their kid’s college.


Families That Want Their Kid To Have A Student Loan Should Complete the FAFSA


Some families want their kid to take out a Federal student loan so they will have skin in the game or to build credit.  Students from high-income families still qualify for an unsubsidized Federal student loan, but they must complete the FAFSA.


Educ8Fit Consulting


For more information about financial aid in general, please visit my website at Paying for College | Educ8Fit Consulting.  Please contact me at Educ8Fit Consulting at either or College Admission Counseling | Educ8fit Consulting | United States, contact for a free 30-minute consultation.


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Phone: (703) 850-9319

Personal LinkedIn: Jim Houser | LinkedIn



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