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Financial Aid FAQs


Frequently Asked Questions


Why is the FAFSA (and CSS PROFILE if applicable) important?

Completing the FAFSA will get you considered for the largest pool of financial aid distributed every year from federal, state and college sources.


What type of aid can I get?

The most common types of aid are: 1) government grants; 2) college scholarships; 3) on-campus work-study jobs; and 4) government subsidized and un-subsidized loans. In some cases colleges also offer grants and loans as part of their financial aid packages.


When can I apply and what are the deadlines?

You can submit the FAFSA (and CSS PROFILE) as early as October 1st of the year prior to the school year you are applying for. The final deadlines are determined by each individual college so check with the schools you are interested in attending's website or financial aid office. Submitting by the earliest dates to increase your chances of getting the most aid possible.


Do I need to apply every year?



If I have multiple students in college, how many FAFSAs do we need to submit?

One for each student.


Where can I find applications?

For FAFSA:  and for CSS PROFILE: 


Where can I find helpful resources?

Those same websites have complete resources for how to complete and submit the financial aid applications. They do not, however, provide you with strategies to maximize your financial aid award. Contact CollegeSmart Solutions to learn how to optimize your financial aid and learn about significant non-traditional sources of financial aid as well.


How many college students get financial aid?

At least 2/3 of full time undergraduate students get financial aid resources to help pay for college. Approximately 58% of this aid is free money (grants and scholarships) and 34% is government loans.


What is the average amount of financial aid an undergraduate student receives?

Approximately $14,000 per year.


Does applying for aid hurt my chances of getting admitted?

There are generally two types of traditional financial aid, need-based and non need-based aid. The FAFSA process is how one applies for need-based aid and it usually does not affect one's chance of admittance to a particular school. Colleges actually use this form of aid to help in their diversification efforts. Non need-based aid is that which schools use from their own funds to attract the students in high demand such as high academic achievers, athletes and musicians.


How good do my grades need to be to get financial aid?

As mentioned in the answer to the previous question, grades do not have any effect on your application for need-based aid, however your grades still need to be good enough to be able to get admitted into the colleges before you will receive a financial aid award from those schools.


How much income is too much income to receive financial aid?

The answer to this question depends on too many variables to be able to provide clear guidance. The FAFSA will determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) so if that is higher than the cost of a particular college you will not receive any aid. However, especially with high cost private schools, the chances of your EFC being lower than the cost of that college goes up and so, therefore, does your chances of receiving aid. Your best bet is to go to each college's website and use their 'Net Price Calculator' to determine if you have a good chance of receiving aid from those schools. CollegeSmart Solutions can show you how to get non-traditional sources of financial aid no matter how high your income is.


What is 'Self Help Aid'?

Self Help aid is industry terminology for non-free aid sources such as work-study and loans.


What is work-study and do I need to accept it if offered?

Work-study is a form of aid granted to students as part of their Financial Aid Award from each college where the student is given the opportunity to pay part of their college tuition bill by 'working it off' by working a job on the campus. Instead of receiving a paycheck they will get a credit against their outstanding bill with the college. You do not have to accept the work-study portion of the aid offered. Studies show, however, that students who have a part-time job while going to school actually achieve higher grades which probably has to do with the extra discipline it forces on them. In addition it provides the students with job experience which may help them when it comes time to graduate and pursue their career.


How are financial aid loans different from regular college loans?

Financial aid loans are generally easier to qualify for, have more flexible repayment terms and have lower interest rates than a regular personal loan one might get on their own. There is a maximum amount of financial aid loans a student may receive each year and it usually is insufficient to cover the entire costs of college so some families may need to rely on both.


Why do they ask for my income from two years ago?

This is a new change in the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE application process as of 2016 applications which is intended to lower confusion and adminstrative costs related to families providing estimates because they had not yet filed the current tax forms due for the past year, and then having to update those estimates with actual numbers once they have filed those returns. The flip side everyone will now have to deal with is that using tax return information from two years ago may incorrectly reflect a family's current situation and therefore affect their financial aid awards either positively or negatively.


What if my current situation has changed?

If your financial situation has changed between two years ago and now, you still need to report the two year old information on your FAFSA. Once you receive your financial aid award from the school(s), you should then contact the financial aid office at the school to explain your situation and they will tell you how to go about requesting an appeal or review of your award based on current circumstances. The financial aid officers have discretion to make such changes without having to go back through the FAFSA organization.


How does the typical family pay for college?

For the past year, the typical family paid for college using the following average sources of funds:

Parent Income and Savings 32%
Student Income and Savings 11%
Relatives and Friends 5%
Parent Loans 6%
Student Loans 16%
Grants and Scholarships 30%


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