To apply for need-based financial aid, families must complete the Free Application the (FAFSA) and, if appropriate, the College Scholarship Service’s PROFILE application. These documents are used to determine what amount, if any, a family (and that means both parent and student) can contribute to the annual cost of attendance. That number is known as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The specific amount of your EFC may vary from institution to institution, but the formulas in place ensure that most EFCs are similar.
The formulas consider a variety of family circumstances when determining eligibility. (The College Board Web site has some great financial aid calculators you can use.) Consequently, there’s no real cut-off point or maximum income a family can have and still qualify for assistance. Even if you have a comparatively high income, you may still qualify for need-based aid, particularly if you have more than one child in college. Every student, regardless of financial situation, should consider applying for need-based aid to see what happens.
How to apply for financial aid:
Apply between January 1 and June 30. Check with the individual schools where you are applying; some may have deadlines as early as January.
Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which you can obtain from the Office of Post-Secondary Education. It includes a Student Aid Report, which helps determine your expected family contribution.
Use a No. 2 pencil or black ink to complete the application.
Also be prepared to give general information such as your name, address, social security number, citizenship status, marital status and type of degree you earned in high school.
Be prepared to give financial information such as total family income, number of people in the household and number of people in college. Round numbers to the nearest whole dollar amount.
List six schools you are interested in attending. You can change them if you find that the schools don’t provide the financial support you need.
Sign and date the application form.
Photocopy every sheet of the application for your records.
Wait for the results of your application, including the amount of financial aid you can expect to receive. It will be sent to you and to the schools you have applied to.
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