Managing the Financial Aid Application Process
Basic Timeline – Senior Year
- Download the Financial Aid Application Manager worksheet. Use it to help you keep track of all financial aid application requirements and deadlines for each school.
- Visit the financial aid office web site for every target college and look up school-specific financial aid requirements and deadlines. Do not wait until after submitting the admissions applications to begin the financial aid application process!
- Apply for your FSA ID’s. Create a FSA ID for the student and one of the custodial parents. You will need both FSA ID’s to complete the FAFSA.
October – Complete the FAFSA
The FAFSA is now available beginning on October 1 each year.
Since students and parents are now asked to report report actual income information from the “prior, prior year” rather than estimates from prior year it is much easier to complete the FAFSA early. In plain english, this means that applicants for 2021-22 will report income information from the 2019 federal tax return instead of having to provide estimates of 2020 income before that return is filed.
November – Complete the CSS Profile if required for any ED or EA school.
Some schools require Early Decision or Early Action applicants to complete the CSS Profile in November.
Submit all additional forms and requirements for target schools that require more that the FAFSA. Submit everything on time. Do not wait until you are offered admission.
Tip Sheets – Forms and Requirements
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
The FAFSA is the primary financial aid application form and is required for all students who apply for federal financial aid. Most schools also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for need-based institutional grant aid.
The CSS Profile form is required by many schools that award large amounts of school-funded grant aid based family’s financial need.
State Aid Application
Many states have their own state aid application.
Non-Custodial Parent Information
When the student’s parents are divorced or separated, some schools require a financial aid application from both parents. The parent the student lived with most is in the preceding twelve months is the custodial parent and the other parent is the non-custodial parent.
Business\Farm Supplemental Information
If you own any type of business or farm, a small number of schools will require detailed information about your business including copies of your federal business tax returns.
Federal Tax Returns
Many schools require financial aid applicants to submit copies of the most recent parent and student individual federal tax return. If no federal tax return was filed, you may be asked to complete a non-tax filer form and provide copies of all W-2’s and/or 1099″s.
Institutional Financial Aid Application Forms
A very small number of schools require an institutional financial aid application.
IDOC – Institutional Documentation Service
The College Board offers a service called IDOC. Some colleges require that you submit some of your financial aid application materials through IDOC.
Merit Aid Application
Merit aid is a type of grant that is unrelated to your family’s financial strength. Merit aid is typically awarded for excellence in academics, sports, music or another endeavor. At many schools your admissions application also serves as your application for merit scholarships. At other schools additional forms or essays are required to apply for merit aid. Carefully research the availability of merit aid scholarships at each school and the requirements necessary to qualify and be sure to note these in your Financial Aid Application Worksheet.