If you are a high school senior who will be applying for financial aid for the next school year, the time is quickly approaching to fill out the 2022-2023 FAFSA and the 2022-2023 CSS Profile, as both applications open on October 1, 2021. As a rule of thumb, families applying for aid should complete the applications as soon as possible to ensure that they meet all deadlines and that the schools still have financial aid available for their student. Families do not need to wait until a student has applied for admission or has been accepted. However, be sure to wait until after October 1st to complete the forms; otherwise you would be submitting for the wrong school year. Before the application opens, here are some steps to help guide you through the process.
What is the FAFSA?
Called FAFSA for short, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a form used by most colleges and universities to determine students’ eligibility for grants, federal student loans, and work-study funds. The FAFSA form collects families’ financial and personal information, and with the help of an algorithm, determines your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is not necessarily the amount you are expected to pay, but instead a number used by financial aid offices to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible to receive. To reiterate, FAFSA is the application to determine your eligibility to receive grants, loans, and/or work-study from the federal or state government as well as the individual college(s) to which you apply.
Below are some tips about how to apply, where to apply, and what you’ll need:
- To fill out the FAFSA, click here to create your account and get a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. This will start the process.
- While FAFSA collects financial and personal information from both the parents and the student, it is important that the student creates a profile under their name and email address and fills this out.
- If you are uncertain whether you “qualify” for student aid, by all means apply! The information provided on the application will determine whether or not you are eligible for assistance.
- Students applying to colleges for the 2022-2023 academic year will need their family’s 2020 tax returns to complete the form.
- For a more detailed breakdown of the process, access this official link of the Federal Student Aid. The Student Aid website contains the step-by-step process and a list of the required documents needed while applying.
Moreover, as important as it is to fill out the FAFSA, it’s just as important to fill out the CSS Profile for universities that require it in addition to the FAFSA (usually the private universities).
What is the CSS Profile?
The College Scholarship Service Profile, also known as the CSS Profile, is an application through which universities determine how much institutional aid you may need. To clarify, while the FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal or state grants, loans, and other governmental support, the CSS Profile determines your eligibility for financial aid from the specific college(s) to which you apply. The CSS Profile application opens on October 1, 2021, the same day as the FAFSA. Please note, it must be submitted no later than two weeks before the earliest priority filing date specified by your college. To find your colleges’ FAFSA and CSS Profile deadlines, visit their financial aid websites.
- Before applying, check with your college(s) to determine whether they require the CSS Profile. You can find a list of participating colleges here.
- Click here to create an account for the 2022-2023 academic year and sign in to your CSS Profile.
- Remember that the process to complete this application–after you have created an account and signed in–requires your federal tax returns and other financial information. You can find further information about the CSS Profile here.
Some colleges require the FAFSA – and perhaps the CSS Profile, too – to be considered for merit aid. If a student seeks merit aid (which is strictly based on outstanding academic, athletic, artistic or other performance), we highly recommend completing the required forms just in case. Even if you do not believe you are eligible for financial aid, it doesn’t hurt to complete the FAFSA or CSS Profile. Taking this extra step may also help should your family experience a financial change—such as a job loss—during the school year.
Remember that you can find information about each of your college’s financial aid application process on their website and in the Common Application. Once signed into your Common App account, click on the last tab to the right labeled Financial Aid Resources. And if you have questions about a particular college’s financial aid application process, call or email the school.