October 1st marks the first day that American families can apply for student financial aid for the 2018-19 academic year. Here’s what you need to know:
All US colleges require the submission of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) if you are applying for need-based financial aid. You need to complete the form found at https://fafsa.ed.gov. There is no charge to submit this form.
About 250 colleges and universities also require completion of the CSS Profile. That form is accessed at https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org and is also available beginning Oct. 1, 2017. A list of colleges that require this form will be found at that web address. There is a submission fee for the CSS Profile, plus a reporting charge for each institution that receives the report.
While the deadlines for completing these forms vary, many colleges now have a deadline of Nov. 1st or Nov. 15th for early decision and early action applicants. Check financial aid deadlines on the websites of the colleges to which you are applying.
When completing the FAFSA, both student and one parent must first create their own FAFSA ID. This will serve as an electronic signature when submitting the application.
Who should complete the FAFSA and the CSS Profile? Any family who believes they might qualify for financial aid at some time during the student’s college years. The FAFSA calculations will take the age of parents into account and do not consider assets in retirement savings accounts or home equity in their formulas. Any family that expects to have two or more children in college at the same time. Anyone applying for merit-based aid at a college that requires the FAFSA or Profile for consideration for merit aid. Check the merit aid pages of your colleges’ websites.