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Financial Aid 101

Don’t let the cost keep you from applying to the school of your dreams. Even if some schools seem too pricy for your budget, it doesn’t mean that you can’t afford them. Most colleges and universities determine their financial aid packages based on the size of their endowment, a family’s financial need, and how much the school wants a particular student.


In this day and age, many institutions claim to meet a student’s “full need.”  In other words, a combination of grants, scholarships, federal and private loans, and work-study money make up for whatever the family can’t afford to pay to meet the cost of tuition.

As you begin to start applying to college and applying for financial aid, there are two steps you need to take no matter where your college search may take you. The first is submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for anyone applying for federal student aid. The FAFSA inquires about family income, investments, savings, and other financial factors, such as the family’s tax returns from the previous year.


After you complete the FAFSA, make sure to fill out the College Scholarship Service Profile, created by the College Board, and used mostly by private colleges. The CSS/Financial Aid Profile allows you to apply for nonfederal financial aid from almost 400 colleges and scholarship programs. This profile is more detailed than the FAFSA and asks about income and liabilities, including family assets, veterans’ benefits, and child support payments. It also provides a blank form for students to explain any special financial circumstances that could affect a family’s expected tuition contribution.

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