October 1 marks the official start of the financial aid application process, as it’s the first day that the FAFSA and CSS Profile are available for families to start filling out for the 2018-2019 school year. To celebrate, Admissions Intel is publishing three articles this week that all share a common theme: financial aid. In today’s first article, we set the table with some important introductory information about applying for financial aid for the 2018-2019 school year.
The FAFSA is the name commonly used for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the CSS Profile is short for the College Scholarship Service Profile. The former is a federal form, which is used by most American colleges to determine financial aid offers, and the latter is published by the College Board and used by about 200 mostly private colleges in addition to the FAFSA. Families applying for financial aid should clarify if they need to fill out only the FAFSA or the FASA and the CSS Profile for colleges on their list. Any family that wants to receive need-based aid that also believes they might qualify for financial aid must apply for financial aid in order to have any chance of getting financial aid.
A good number of colleges offering Early Decision and Early Action have financial aid application deadlines as early as November 1 or November 15 for Early Decision and Early Action applicants; yet, the exact deadline to submit financial aid applications varies a great deal from college to college and may also depend on your application plan (ED vs. EA vs. Priority vs. Regular).
Admissions Intel recommends that students check the Naviance Family Connection profile for each college on their list (if their high school uses Naviance Family Connection) and then fact-check this information with information gleaned from the financial aid office website for each college on their list in order to confirm the appropriate deadlines for submitting any and all applications and associate forms that each college on their list requires in order to be fully considered for financial aid for the 2018-2019 school year. Failing to meet financial aid application deadlines will affect a family’s ability to qualify for financial aid for the 2018-2019 school year.
To get further familiarize yourself with FAFSA, we recommend printing out and filling out the practice FAFSA on the Web Worksheet, which provides a preview of the questions that families will be asked while completing the real online FAFSA. It’s always good to plan ahead!
Similarly, CSS Profile publishes the CSS Profile Student Guide that is helpful in better orienting families with what to expect when filling out the CSS Profile. The fancy folks at the CSS Profile also publish an audio slideshow that explains the application in greater depth. Thanks for that tool College Board!