Considering financial aid
For parents the impact of financial aid is a significant factor to consider when weighing college options.
If you have a younger high school or middle school student, start building your understanding of college costs — it is more complicated than just looking at listed prices. Grants and scholarships are given out by institutions that are tied to both family financial need and to student merit. And at our colleges, those grants cut the cost of tuition by more than half for first-year students for the average family. Learn more about how financial aid works and explore our Paying for College videos.
And if you have a junior or a senior, you may be looking for some nuts-and-bolts suggestions about financial aid. Our college’s financial aid and admission leaders recommend that you:
- Get an estimate – To get an estimate of your expected family contribution and eligibility for financial aid, consider completing the FAFSA4CASTER. This tool has fewer questions than the actual Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and doesn’t require personal information.
- Create a federal student aid (FSA) ID – Both you and your student need to create a FSA ID (instructions) to sign in to all federal financial aid-related websites.
- File taxes early – Complete the FAFSA as soon as January 1, or as soon as taxes are filed. If taxes are filed two to three weeks before completing the FAFSA, you should be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (see below) to complete the FAFSA application.
- Simplify the FAFSA by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) – You and your student are encouraged to use the DRT to complete the FAFSA to make the application process easier and reduce common errors.
- Understand and prepare for verification – Verification requires you and your student to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool or submit federal tax transcripts and other supporting information directly to the financial aid office to verify the information you shared on the FAFSA. It is critically important to respond to schools’ requests for information as soon as possible to get an official financial aid award letter in a timely fashion.
- Find your “go-to” person – Colleges can be big places, and the application and enrollment process may sometimes seem overwhelming. We recommend identifying a go-to person at each college, someone you know you can go to for timely and honest answers to your particular questions.