Understanding Financial-Aid

Financial Aid can be confusing, but we’re here to help! Learn more about the process from CollegeAdvisor.com.

Join former Admissions Officer and Financial Aid expert Ashly Cargle-Thompson as she shares her tips and advice on applying for and understanding Financial Aid during a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session.

In this webinar, you’ll have all your questions answered including:

  • What is the FAFSA?
  • How does the FAFSA determine how much I pay for college?
  • What will I need to complete the FAFSA?

Come ready to learn and bring your questions!

Date 01/11/2023
Duration 1:00:25

Webinar Transcription

2023-01-11 – Understanding Financial Aid

Moderator: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s Webinar, Understanding Financial Aid. To orient everyone with a webinar timing, we’ll first start with a presentation and then we’ll give you the opportunity to ask questions in our live A&A. On the sidebar, you can download our slides and start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab.

Now let’s meet our panelist.

Ashly: Hi everyone. My name is Ashly Cargle-Thompson. I am a financial aid, advisor as well as a former admissions officer here at CollegeAdvisor, and I am extremely excited to talk about the basics of financial aid with you guys. We are going to start with a brief poll. It should have popped up if you guys could just let us know, um, what grade you’re in currently.

[00:01:00] Uh, if you’re a parent, you can go ahead and click other.

Moderator: Awesome. So yes, the poll has now been launched, so we’re gonna give it a few seconds. Uh, and thank you Ashly, for adding a note about parents. Yes, you can mark other if you are a parent or guardian. Okay. So let’s see. The responses are coming in. So we have a little over 50% are in the 11th grade, followed by that we have a few 10th graders and we also have about 18% are in the 12th grade. Um, so from about 10th to 12th grade are represented this evening in the presentation

Ashly: Great. Well, that’s actually a perfect kind of cross section of students to be thinking about financial aid. So the way that this is gonna work is that I’m gonna talk about sort of the basics of financial aid, um, in terms of understanding what a [00:02:00] lot of the terminology means, because that’s kind of the first barrier.

And then walking through some of the critical steps that you’ll have to hit during financial aid, uh, the financial aid process, and the admissions process. Um, like Lonnie said, these slides are available for you to download. I will not spend a ton of time on each slide, so I really recommend that you download this, um, and keep it handy because it will be a good guide moving forward.

Um, so first and foremost, when is a good time to start thinking about financial aid? Uh, No matter how old you are, no matter what grade you’re in, I would say to start thinking about it as soon as possible. Um, the best way to ensure that you’ll be able to afford college is to make sure that you know which colleges you can afford.

Um, obviously we want you to apply to your dream schools. We want you to [00:03:00] apply to the places that have the best majors and, you know, check off as many boxes as possible. But we also want to make sure that very early on, you’re getting to know and getting excited about schools that are affordable for you and your family.

So even something as early as eighth or ninth grade, you should start educating yourself on what colleges are out there, um, and what different colleges look like and what different words about college mean. Like what’s the difference between a state school and a liberal arts school, that type of thing.

Um, so that when it comes time for you to build a college list, you will already have a good sense of this is the sweet spot in terms of what my family can afford. We’re probably looking at a state school and you’ve already gotten yourself excited about that local school or that state school or whatever school.

Um, you’ve schools you’ve found that are, that are good financial fits as [00:04:00] well. Um, some things to note when we talk about financial aid. Financial aid is a catchall term, um, for anything having to do with financing your college education. So that’s inclusive of student loans, merit awards, external awards, any funds that your parents pay out of pocket, if you have a college fund, all of that falls with a under the financial aid umbrella.

So don’t get stuck when we’re talking about this, thinking that financial aid is only student loans or only things that are related to the FAFSA. Um, like I said before, you wanna know what schools are affordable for your family or how, you know, how different school, um, schools are kind of priced. Um, but you also, and part of that is also understanding what your non-negotiables are.[00:05:00]

Um, what are your financial non-negotiables are? Have you and your family decided that we’re gonna do this completely debt free? Um, or are you willing to take out loans? Are you in a position where you’re pretty confident that you’ll be able to get merit awards? Or are you, are your grades at a place where you’re like, we should probably plan that.

We’re not gonna get any merit awards? Those are the types of things that you have to determine are non-negotiable. So doesn’t matter if I get into my dream school, if taking out loans is a non-negotiable, then I’m not gonna go to my dream school if they don’t give me enough scholarships and grants to cover tuition, um, and room and board.

Um, like I said before, start developing that financially aware, um, college list. Start researching it early. If you are a sophomore or a junior, you should really start leaning into knowing [00:06:00] about knowing a little bit more about colleges. Um, you also want to avoid getting in over your head. You want to avoid applying to a bunch of schools, um, in your senior year that are not financially feasible for your family unless you get some sort of unicorn scholarship, um, and you get a full ride for the full four years. Um, you don’t wanna be in a situation where, great, I’ve gotten in everywhere and no one has given me a financial aid package that’s sustainable for my family. And so now we’re gonna have to take out private loans and we’re gonna have to do all sorts of things that are less than ideal.

And then finally, um, thinking about this, thinking about financial aid on the early end helps you streamline the paperwork and the applications. It gives you a good sense of, these are the things that I’m going to need my senior year. It gives your parents a good sense of, okay, like these are the tax forms that we’re gonna have [00:07:00] to pull while they’re completing their taxes.

They’re gonna know that, okay, this is gonna be the taxes that we have to report on your FAFSA. All of that helps make the process go much more smoothly during your senior year. So I mentioned again that financial aid is this umbrella term and there’s a bunch of different kind of categories that fall underneath it.

Um, sometimes financial aid is used interchangeably to mean any or all of these things, and also some of these other terms are interchangeable. But for the most part, it’s inclusive, like I said, of scholarships, grants, work, study, and loans. Now, scholarships and grants are often used interchangeably. Um, and especially you’ll see that a lot with external scholarships.

Um, but for the most part, if you see the term scholarship, that’s usually implying that the funds [00:08:00] are merit based. Um, or in some way, shape or form contingent on you meeting certain eligibility criteria outside of financial need. So it might be you have to have graduated from a certain school or you have to have participated in a de uh, in debate team for X number of, you know, semesters.

Um, but funds that are kind of categorized like that are called scholarships. Um, the Department of Education and when you’re looking at the Department of Education in their kind of financial aid, um, office. They, when we talk about grants, that usually is implying that there is a need-based component so that you would have to report your income and you would have to meet a maximum, um, kind, you would have to be below a maximum, um, income in order to qualify for that funding.

Um, both of these, both of these types of financial aid [00:09:00] are free money, meaning that this is money that will be granted to you and there is no expectation that you are going to pay it back. So when you’re looking at financial aid, when you’re looking at ways to pay for school, scholarships and grants should be where you spend the bulk of your time, um, getting additional information and understanding how they work, because we want to find ways to pay as little as we can out of pocket and to take out a few loans as we possibly can.

So one of the ways, one of the big words that you’ll hear thrown around, especially juniors, it’s it’s coming for you, um, and seniors, you’ve probably heard it a lot, um, is the FAFSA, um, or the free application for federal student aid in the United States. The FAFSA is kind of the core financial aid document, uh, that needs to [00:10:00] be submitted, uh, to colleges for them to determine your eligibility for, um, need-based aid.

The Department of Education also uses the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for a federally funded need-based aid, and often states have their own scholarship programs, state specific scholarship programs, and they will also use the data collected on your FT to determine your eligibility for state based or state funded need-based programs. Uh, so it’s really important that you understand the FAFSA, understand how it works, and try and get it done as quickly as possible during your senior year. So the FAFSA actually is a summary of your family’s income, so usually your parent or guardian, um, and your own, uh, income and assets.

And its intent is to predict your ability to pay for school to come up with a [00:11:00] number that indicates, um, you know about what your family should expect to contribute. Juniors, you are going to see some differences in the FAFSA. Um, for instance, they’re no longer going to call the E, the that number and EFC, and there’s going to be some things about the FAFSA that are also simplified.

Um, so when we do our FAFSA workshop, make sure that you come so that we can talk about the new FAFSA. In a lot of ways though, the way that it’s used isn’t gonna change too much once they collect that information. Um, I do wanna note that FAFSA eligibility, uh, only US citizens and eligible non-citizens, so usually students who are here on a green card are eligible.

State funded, or federal, I’m sorry, federally funded, um, scholarships and grants. So if you [00:12:00] are undocumented or an international student, you’re not eligible for those things, so you won’t need to fill out the FAFSA. But if you’re a domestic student, you will be required by the schools that you’re applying to to complete the FAFSA annually.

You might also find, when you’re looking through financial aid pages and kind of starting to do your research about the financial aid programs at different schools, you might also find them talking about something called the CSS Profile, and that is kind of the secondary financial aid document used by some schools.

So while all schools accept the FAFSA and require the FAFSA, the CSS profile is, uh, accepted and required by about 400 schools. Usually, private liberal arts schools are make up the bulk of of that population. Um, it unlike the FAFSA, which [00:13:00] is very much you kind of entering information about your, like directly from your tax returns.

The CSS um, profile is looking at a larger scope of context in terms of helping them identify, uh, your eligibility and the point of the CSS profile, where the FAFSA is all about identifying your eligibility for financial or for federal, uh, funding and ma mainly government funded, um, funding.

The CSS profile is intended for these particular schools to identify any eligibility you might have for institutional funding. So for private scholarships held by those institutions alone, um, that might, they might be able to offer you along with your offer of admission. Um, the CSS profile is like a Common App in that you’re [00:14:00] going to fill out, um, a lot of different kinds of questions, but then you’re gonna list the schools and your, um, your information will be sent to all of those different schools, but again, like the Common App, some schools have additional school specific questions, kind of like supplemental questions or essays that you have to answer. So you’re gonna have some extra things to fill out on that end too, depending on where you apply, um, in terms of eligibility to complete the CSS profile.

Uh, DACA, undocumented and international students are eligible for a lot of funds that are, um, granted through the CSS um, process. So it’s important to know whether or not your school indicates that they are a CSS International school. Um, if they are, then that means that they want you to fill out the CSS profile and that they do have funds available for you.

[00:15:00] If they are not a CSS international school, then that means that, um, they don’t have funds available, uh, for international students through the CSS kind of selection process, they might have a different internal. , um, in terms of your timeline. So seniors, um, if you have not started the FAFSA, CSS, uh, profile and identified whether or not your school is a CSS, your schools are CSS profile schools, you should be doing that as soon as possible.

Um, the deadline for financial aid for most schools that are regular decision is the deadlines are kind of between now and mid-February, uh, if they haven’t passed already. So it’s important that you get that stuff done, get it submitted, um, so that you can. Make sure that your entire application [00:16:00] profile is complete.

Uh, for juniors, you should be expecting that you are going to complete the FAFSA or everybody who’s not a senior, that the FAFSA’s gonna open on October 1st of your senior year. Uh, FAFSA and CSS profile always open on October 1st and your goal should be to complete it as and submit it as close to October 1st as you possibly can.

You just wanna get that completely off of your off the table and ensure that you are not missing out on any available funds because you’ve missed a deadline. There are gonna be some specific materials that you need to fill out the FAFSA and the CSS profile. I usually recommend that if you’re a CSS, if you have schools that are CSS profile schools, that you complete the FAFSA first, um, because the FAFSA’s gonna ask a lot of the same [00:17:00] questions as the CSS profile, and you can use a printout of your FAFSA to help expedite the CSS profile application process.

Um, one thing separates the FAFSA from the CSS profile is that the FAFSA requires you before you can start the actual FAFSA to create secure, a secure ID called an FSA ID. And every student who is applying to, or who needs to complete the FAFSA needs to have an FSA ID, and they need to have at least one parent or guardian who has completed an FSA ID.

So you need to have two FSA IDs, yours and your parent or guardian, you can actually choose if you live at home with, if you have two parents, um, and you’re all living together, then you can choose which parent does it. That doesn’t matter, but one parent is going to have to create it. And the big important thing is that you are [00:18:00] using your separate, uh, phone numbers and email addresses for the student account and for the parent account. Um, what the FSA ID helps you do is one, once you’ve com completed it and you start the FAFSA, it sort of auto completes a lot of information that you’re not gonna have to fill in. Um, but it also function as functions as your digital signature. So when you have to sign the FAFSA, you’re actually going to see a field where you’re gonna enter your FSA ID, uh, credentials.

And when your parent has to sign the FAFSA, they will do the same thing with their credentials. So there’s no way around it and it really makes the most sense to. Get the FSA ID done first and actually even sign into the FAFSA with those credentials because it streamlines the whole process. Um, some of the information that you’re gonna need is [00:19:00] basically your social security number or alien registration number, your full name and dates of birth for the student and the parent.

Um, you’ll also need, in addition to that information, to complete the FAFSA, um, you’re gonna need tax returns and W2s from the prior tax year. So if you are a junior, you will be filling out the FAFSA with your 2022 taxes. Um, If you’re seniors, you should have been using your 2021 taxes. Um, you might also need to have bank statements or investment records, um, available, uh, any records of untaxed income that you might get.

And of course, your FSA ID. The CSS profile, again, like I said, they’re gonna ask for a lot of the same things that the FAFSA does. So I would say complete the FAFSA and then print out. You’ll get something called a [00:20:00] student aid report, which is basically a printout of all of your answers on the FAFSA.

Um, go ahead and print that out and use that to get you through a lot of the questions on the CSS. But in addition to the things that you would’ve already been able to pull from the FAFSA, you’ll need a college board account. So if you’ve taken the SATs, pre SATs, you already have one, and you’ll be able to just log in through the students account and complete the CSS profile.

That way there’s no FSA ID situation that you need to do. Um, you’ll still want to have your tax returns on hand. You’ll also want to have W2s not only for 2022. But pay stubs until October of, what would that be? October of 2023. Um, that will ensure that you’re able to answer questions about the [00:21:00] current year and next year, where the FAFSA is really just concerned with looking at a snapshot of that one year.

The CSS profile is gonna ask about the most recent completed tax year, but they’re also gonna ask about your predictions for what you’re gonna, what you’re gonna make, you know, in the present tax year and even the tax year after that. So, the CSS profile asks more detailed questions. They want more financial context because they really wanna understand, uh, what a family’s day-to-day financial situation looks like.

Um, in terms of being a part of a non-traditional family. So if you live at home, if you don’t live at home with both parents, if you live at with one parent and a stepparent, if you live with a legal guardian, um, any of those things, both the FAFSA and the CSS profile, address, what to do in [00:22:00] those situations with the FAFSA no matter what.

You’re still gonna have to. . Um, if you’re declared a dependent, you’re still gonna have to figure out who your primary guard guardian is. Um, with the CSS profile, you still also need to know who your primary guardian is. But the, some, some schools require both parents, uh, regardless of marital status, family situation, they require both parents to complete the CSS profile.

Um, and they won’t accept usually excuses like, well, one, this other parent isn’t gonna pay for anything, or, this other parent isn’t really, you know, they don’t want to pay, they don’t want to give us that information. Um, it’s their policy that you have to do both. If you are in a situation where the other parent is not going to do it. There is a waiver process that you can apply for, um, where you’re asking individual schools to [00:23:00] waiver to waive that policy for you. That doesn’t guarantee that it will be waived, um, but it could be, um, you’ll also need a credit card for the CSS profile. Uh, because the FAFSA is free, the CSS profile is not, uh, the first, there’s a $9 kind of transaction fee.

And each school, after you pay that one time transaction fee, each school is $16. So for every school that you apply to, they’re gonna add $16 to the bill. So if you apply to one, it’s gonna be $25. If you apply to two, you add 16. Add 16. Um, there is also a financial waiver process, uh, if that is a little bit steep, and they’re very transparent about what the criteria are for.

Um, qualifying for that waiver process. And actually, as you fill out the CSS profile, there will be a moment if you qualify where they tell you that much and [00:24:00] you’re not asked to pay.


Moderator: Ashly, we’re gonna give you a short pause because you are sharing some really great in-depth information. Um, so we wanna get a sense of, although we’re talking about the financial aid process, we do wanna just know where you are in the college application process, um, because that starts before you get into 12th grade.

Uh, so let us know, like perhaps you are, you haven’t started, or maybe you’re researching your schools. On top of researching schools, you may be looking at what the cost of college is, and that connects to understanding, you know, financial aid, working on your essays, maybe getting your material done or almost done.

Let’s see. Okay, so we have the results So far, we have about 55% of our participants are researching schools. We have about 30% that haven’t started. [00:25:00] There’s still time and it’s never too early, uh, to begin that process as you all are already starting the, the financial aid understanding about financial aid.

And then we have, uh, 7% that are almost done. So congratulations to those who are almost done with the college application process.

Ashly: Yes. It, the, the end is in sight. It is so close. You guys just hang on. Um, alright, so once you’ve figured out, so now that we’ve talked about kind of hard administrative tasks that go with financial aid.

Um, I wanna talk a little bit about some of the language that you’re going to hear, and especially while you’re researching schools, it’s, it’s important to understand what these terms mean. Um, so what you’ll see a lot in the research process are the terms need blind or need aware. You tend to see the term need blind [00:26:00] much more often than you see need aware.

But a lot of times people don’t fully understand what that is. When a school says that they’re need blind, the first thing that’s important for you to understand is that these terms are actually admissions policies. They have nothing to do with financial aid. If a school is need blind or need aware, it says nothing about what your financial aid is going to be or how your financial aid is going to be calculated based upon your family’s need.

All they’re saying is that if their need blind, your ability to pay your finances information, data pulled from your FAFSA, from your CSS profile will not be a part of their consideration in terms of an admissions decision. So they’re not gonna look at your financials before they make their decision on whether or not to admit you.

A school that’s need aware is not saying that they absolutely will [00:27:00] look at your financials, but they’re saying that they could. Um, and there’s really no way to tell whether you are gonna benefit from a school that’s need blind or need aware. Um, if you are, because schools use need blindness and need awareness for different things.

So, um, while need aware might sound good, if you’re a low income student and you know that you have demonstrated incredibly high financial need, um, that doesn’t guarantee that that’s how they’re going to treat your application and your financial information. There are sometimes situations where schools have already expended all of their need-based funds and they really need to admit students who can afford to pay full freight.

And so in that situation, being a low income student at a need where [00:28:00] institution might not benefit you in other places where they have tons of money that is earmarked for need-based funding, it will benefit you. There’s really no way to know, because no school is going to tell you what their, uh, reasons are for being need blind or need aware.

You’ll also see terms, uh, the term or you’ll see information about the extent to which a school meets your full financial need or meets your demonstrated financial need is another way that they put it. So basically what those schools are saying, a school that says that we, that they will meet 100% of your financial need, that they will meet a hundred percent of your demonstrated need, full financial need, any of those sorts of phrases.

What they’re saying is that they will ensure that your [00:29:00] financial aid package covers the entire cost of attendance. They, they guaranteed that. So that means that it will cover your tuition and fees. It will cover your room and board. It will cover, um, books and supplies, uh, little travel allowance. It’ll cover all of it, everything that you would need to go full-time.

But remember that financial aid, that term has many meanings. So when a school says that they’ll meet your full financial need, they’re not necessarily saying that they’re gonna give you a hundred percent in scholarships and grants, and that you won’t have to pay it back. Sometimes they’re going, and oftentimes that financial aid package will include loans.

Oftentimes, that financial aid package will include. Uh, family contribution. So when they say [00:30:00] they’ll meet full need, you, you could still get a financial aid package that says, well, based on your information we see, we think that your family can afford to pay $20,000 a year, and you’ll get $5,500 in student loans, and you’ll get $3,000 in work study.

And then we’ll give you the rest in scholarships and grants. Um, so a trap that students will often fall into is that they see that term and they think it means scholarships. They think it means nothing out of pocket. And then when they start getting admitted and getting their financial aid packages, they find out that their family is on the hook for quite a bit of money.

Because meaningful financial need does not mean that you aren’t gonna pay out of pocket.

So how could you possibly know and be prepared for how much [00:31:00] you might have to pay out of pocket? Um, this is part of the kind of research phase, and it’s an important thing to do as you’re kind of culling down your college list. Figuring out and trying to estimate what these schools are gonna cost for your family is really important.

And there’s some, there’s a few things that you’ll be able to do to do that. The top thing really should be net cost calculators. It is required that every institution, every university in the United States has a net cost calculator on their financial aid page. What that allows you to do is put in information, your financial information, income, uh, taxes paid.

Number of, uh, family members in college, a lot of different information. Um, and they will use their formula for determining need to [00:32:00] identify, um, how much you can expect to get in financial aid, what sort of financial aid package you might get. The one thing that kind of doesn’t get tacked onto that is merit awards, but what a net cost calculator can give you is a worst case scenario.

So at most, this is the ballpark for what you would expect to spend, um, on the cost of attendance for this school. Then you can kind of get to work in terms. Researching institutional scholarships, researching external scholarships and that type of thing, but knowing kind of the worst case scenario for the cost of a school very early on for your family and their specific financial situation very early on, again, helps you create that financially aware college list so that no matter, you know, where you get in, you’re [00:33:00] going to get into some schools that you can afford and that you’re excited about.

Um, another thing that you wanna keep in mind is, yes, we’ve talked about schools that meet full need, but some schools will actually say, we’ll meet full need debt. So there are schools out there that will meet a hundred percent of your need, and they are not going to include student loans as part of that package.

That again, does not still mean that you might not be expected to pay something out of pocket, but the net cost calculator will help you determine ballpark of what that amount would be. So you shouldn’t be fully blindsided, um, as you start to apply for, for schools and start to get admitted. Um, the other thing, and the best way to know how much you’re gonna pay for school is to look at state schools and get really excited about [00:34:00] state schools because ultimately what state schools are, are schools that have said, you know, because you are a resident of this state, we want to provide you a high level research education, and we’re going to give you a really deep discount on the cost of attendance. So because they’re state funded, because the majority, like the vast, vast majority of their scholarship or of their financial aid funding is kind of embedded in that discount. You know how much state schools cost if you’re a resident, the cost of a state school is very transparent.

They don’t change very much, um, year to year. So if you look at the top state schools in your area and look at the tuition now, and you’re a junior, it’s got your tuition when you’re a freshman in. We’ll still be in that ballpark. So the most [00:35:00] transparent way, the way to know, absolutely this is what it’s gonna cost for us to go here.

Um, and again, we’re talking worst case scenarios. You could get external scholarships. There are merit scholarships at state schools. Um, is to find out, is to go to a state school that they have the most transparent, um, pricing out of any universities.

Um, this is a good list of things that you can do to further kind of dig into the research and make sure that you’re looking for the right things. Um, it is critical that as you’re researching, absolutely, we want you to look at the student life tab. We want you to look at everything that’s on the academics menu, go through all of the fun stuff, but spend a good amount of time.

On the financial aid page, trying to understand how financial aid works at that [00:36:00] school. Um, as you get into your senior year or you’re trying to, again, cull down or trying to decide, oh, what school am I gonna apply early action to? Or am I going to apply early decision to a school? Um, once you get to that point, there are also some questions that you can contact admissions with if they haven’t published that information and they have it.

Um, and that should tell you a little bit more about how financial aid works at that school. So, you know, what’s the average financial aid package? Usually that’s published and you can find it. Um, the average out-of-pocket cost per student isn’t always, but that’s a helpful, you know, metric to understand average loans borrowed per student is helpful.

Um, and then the pervasiveness of private loans among the undergraduate pop population is really important because that tells you to what extent their financial aid packages are really [00:37:00] meeting students’ needs. If students, if, if everybody’s going out and having to get private loans because their financial aid package doesn’t cover like you, your federal loan doesn’t get you to where you need to be, so you have to go get a private loan.

That tells you a lot about what your package might look like from that school and what you can expect that you’ll have to do as a student There. Um, you have a lot of different resources also in the meantime to contact, uh, if you need more information about financial aid. Um, most high schools have college counselors that can access information about financial aid.

A lot of high schools, um, will hold a FAFSA night for parents or something like that so that they can kind of walk you through the FAFSA. They’ll usually do it in the fall. Uh, so if you have a senior in the fall, check that out. Um, and oftentimes, [00:38:00] especially if you go to a smaller school, your college counselors might even have, um, binders or a list of external scholarships or a list of schools where, um, a lot of students from your high school have been admitted with good scholarships.

That kind of anecdotal information that your college counselors collect over the years can also be helpful in helping you decide what might be a good fit for you and where you might get kind of the most financial value. Um, the admissions offices at the schools themselves are also really helpful resources.

Um, I recommend. Calling, kind of getting all of your questions together and, um, either calling or requesting a meeting with a, with a recruiter or with an admissions advisor at that school. Um, sometimes if you just send in an email kind of to [00:39:00] a general inbox, they’ll have student interns answering it or they can get lost in the shuffle.

So if you really want to get these questions answered, go directly to the admissions office, try and get ahold of a staff member to ask these questions. Um, I also recommend the admissions office before you go to the financial office at a university because financial aid offices are also responsible for handling financial aid for all of the current students.

So they’re not usually set up in such a way that they are ready to assist prospective students. Um, kind of right out of the gate. Sometimes you need the admissions office to, um, kind of make, help you make that connection, uh, if it’s really critical for you to talk to a financial aid officer. Um, and then finally, if you are a CollegeAdvisor student, if you’re already part of the College Advisor family, um, we [00:40:00] have a team of financial aid specialists.

All of us have worked in financial aid for several, several years, and we will do one-on-one consultations, um, with students and families so that we can give more curated advice, uh, based on your particular financial needs and your financial priorities. Um, so if you are a junior right now and you’re a college advisor junior, um, then have a conversation with your advisor.

Uh, because summertime, spring, summer of your junior year is a good time to have a financial aid one-on-one to kind of get all of your ducks in a row.

And then finally, if I had to give any last advice and anything, if you carry anything with you from this webinar, is that all of this preparation that, that I’m recommending is to help you operate from a place of choice [00:41:00] we want. By the end of your senior year when you’re getting all or midway through your senior year when you’re getting all of your acceptance letters to feel really empowered to choose the school that is best for you in every way, shape and form.

Um, and in order to do that, you have to do lay out of the groundwork first. It’s not empowering to be in a situation where you kind of go in blind, you apply to schools and you don’t really think about the financial aspect of it. And then you have to scramble to figure out how you’re gonna pay, you know, on the backend.

That’s feeling ruled by your circumstances can be really stressful and it can just make the process not as fun. It can make being in college not as fun because you’re always stressed about money. Um, so knowing where you can afford to go very early on, um, and creating a [00:42:00] strategy, like I said, that kind of prioritizes, that allows you a greater sense of flexibility when your admissions offers start coming in.

Um, the final thing is that having a financial aid package that is really diverse will ensure that you’re also kind of not under the thumb of a single big scholarship. So operate from a place of choice. Avoid being ruled by your circumstances.

Moderator: Great. Great, great. Thank you so much Ashly. So we are gonna now move into questions and answers, but before we actually do, I’m gonna pivot a little bit because I wanna make sure we can get to as many questions as possible.

Um, Ashly already kind of started talking about some of the work that we do within college advising, and so I wanna share with you all the opportunity to meet, um, with one of our, uh, sales representatives to learn more about College Advisor and the work that we do [00:43:00] to support you on your college application process.

You’ll be able to learn more about our advising, the various services that we offer, such as Ashly sharing more about our financial aid team, where you get to work with an expert like Ashly to really talk through what is financial aid and how that kind of relates to your circumstance. Um, and also just, you know, finding ways to just increase your chances of, of getting into these colleges.

And so if interested, which I highly encourage you, if you are not already working with us, please scan this barcode. Um, and we will leave it up for you all as we now dive into our questions and answers. Okay. So I’ve seen this question come up a few times, um, about just like parents contributing. Um, so hello.

What would be your suggestion to, if we know our parents cannot contribute financially to our schooling?

Ashly: So if you know that your parents, and this is, this is a [00:44:00] difficult situation if you know that your parents are not able to contribute to your schooling, the frustrating aspect of it is that they’re still going to require your parents to share their financial information, and they’re going to determine your financial needs still based on your parents’ income and assets.

Which means that if your parents make, you know, a certain amount of money, then your financial aid packages are going to reflect that even if you don’t, aren’t gonna get any help from them. So if you know that that’s going to be the case, then I would say you would really want to lean into the external scholarship search, and if you are.

So honestly, anyone on this call, you can start looking for external scholar, uh, external scholarships. Um, my favorite resource for external scholarships is called Going Merry. It’s kind of an algorithm [00:45:00] driven scholarship search where you fill out a profile and then they just match you with scholarships and you just kind of have a whole little bank of scholarships that you can apply for and they make it really easy to sift through them.

Um, so I would say go and make an account on Going Merry. You can use scholarship , fast web, whatever it is. Um, but you want to start ensuring very early on that you can bring as much to the table as possible yourself. Um, and then the other thing is, again, going to schools that are affordable. Um, and so state schools cost about 75% less than private liberal arts schools usually. So you already know that you’re kind of cutting a huge amount out if you go to school in state.

Moderator: Okay. So when someone gets into a college with a full ride scholarship, does that include room and [00:46:00] board in other fees, or is it just tuition?

Ashly: That’s a good question.

And that term full ride is used not very consistently. So sometimes a person might say, oh yeah, you got a full ride scholarship, and they just mean fee, tuition and fees, and sometimes it means that we will cover your entire cost of attendance. So when you talk about covering room and board and all of that, that’s cost of attendance.

So it’s always important that when you get your financial aid letter or when you’re reading about the different tiers of maybe merit scholarships that a school might have, that you are able to determine whether or not in the language and the description of that scholarship, they’re saying that they cover tuition and fees or that they cover the full cost of attendance.

Moderator: Um, and someone asked, where can you find this paperwork?

Ashly: I’m not sure which paperwork, if you’re talking about the FAFSA, all [00:47:00] of that is online. So you can go to www.fafsa.gov. Um, you can literally go into Google and type in FAFSA. It’ll pop right up. Um, and then the CSS profile is css profile.college board.org.

Moderator: Great. Great. Um, so our next question reads, let’s see, let’s see. Can I create the FSA ID before the FAFSA opens in October 1st?

Ashly: Yes, you can. Yes. That’s a great tip. Uh, go ahead and get that done. Takes about 20 minutes. It’s not hard. It’s just annoying because there’s dual verification that you have to do, um, and you might wait for a while for the codes.

But yeah, go ahead and get that done. Just make sure that you’re storing your login credentials someplace where you can find them when the FAFSA opens up.

Moderator: Okay, so I’m gonna read some of this part of this question. Um, [00:48:00] so let’s see. Uh, do need blind colleges look at financial need to get, to get to know more about the students?

I know it’s not need blind means. Um, let me see. I know. Not need blind means need. It’s not considered as a factor, but a way in life to learning more about a student. Mm-hmm. . So, let me see. We’re trying to get to, actually, I’m gonna kind of paraphrase that question. So we’re gonna, we’re gonna go back to that question.

Okay. Um, for everyone to be able to understand it. Uh, let’s see. Next question.

Ashly: I see one that’s good. Uh, for a full ride, will it only cover your first year or the full four? It depends. And so that’s why it’s really important for you to read your award letters, uh, very closely. There are some schools that will say, we’re gonna give you a full ride for your freshman year. [00:49:00] And that’s it.

And that’s all we’ll guarantee. And then there are, it’s more common that your scholarship is going to be renewable, meaning that if you maintain certain eligibility criteria, that it will stay with you, um, for the full four years. So it’s important to know, though, and even if it’s not a full ride, um, a lot of times schools might give freshmen like an additional little housing stipend or something like that, um, that’s not guaranteed after their freshman year.

Moderator: Okay, so this question is, um, so when you’re filling out these applications, you’re using your parents’ information while in college you are paying for tuition. Correct? Um, I was gonna ask, do colleges assume that the student is paying themselves or the family? Um, and so how in the long run will your parents’ information help you?

So, you know, how long do you continue to keep using parents’ information with your applications, the FAFSA?

Ashly: Well, unfortunately, [00:50:00] um, you have, you’re, they’re gonna expect your parents’ information to be used for, for most of you, for the entirety of your undergraduate, uh, career. So, um, until you are, until you turn 24.

Uh, as far as the FAFSA is concerned, uh, 24 is when you are able to be considered financially independent. So they make sure that they’re gonna consider your parents’ finances, uh, for the entirety of your undergraduate, um, career in terms of who are they assuming is paying, they’re assuming that the parents are gonna pay, um, which is why they’re asking for your parents’ financials because they’re going to determine your ability to pay based on your family, your parents’ financial resources primarily.

Um, not my favorite aspect of [00:51:00] financial aid, but that’s, that’s how that works.

Moderator: That’s a great, that’s a really great question. Um, thank you to, um, uh, the person who asked it. Uh, so next question is how can you receive a merit scholarship?

Ashly: So again, merit scholarships. A lot of them are based one on academic performance in high school participation, participation in extracurriculars, that type of thing.

So one, getting excellent grades is the first thing that’s, but that’s just the entry point, right? Having really strong GPA, taking honors and AP classes that will get you like your foot in the door. Then it’s a matter of using your application to really highlight all of the things that you’ve done that will show that you will make a positive impact on that institution’s community and [00:52:00] being able to make that very apparent, um, will also help you.

One of the things that I recommend, um, is before you even apply, before you start your applications, if you know that you are gonna need merit scholarships, a lot of schools will list their merit scholarships. They won’t necessarily always list how much or what the eligibility criteria are, but there will be a list of the different scholarships that they offer and usually some sort of write up about the donor and why that donor funding that scholarship. And so you can glean from that what’s important to them. So if it’s like the president’s scholarship, you know, was donated by this person who values philanthropy, volunteerism, and community action, then you know that your application to that school should really highlight those things [00:53:00] about you.

Um, and that’s a good way to kind of frame yourself in the best light for some of those merit awards.

Moderator: Okay. So how does FAFSA coincide with playing college sports and receiving aid through the sports program?

Ashly: So you’re still gonna have to complete your FAFSA, um, depending on the sports program. Um, if you’re D1, for instance, you’re still gonna have to fill out your FAFSA.But athletic scholarships are not need-based. So it doesn’t matter if you’re offered an athletic scholarship, um, at a D1 school, they’re not going to consider your parents’ income. They’re just going to cover the cost of attendance for you. Um, but no matter what your FAFSA is gonna have to do that.

Now it gets a little bit trickier when you start going to D2 and NAIA schools that have partial scholarships. [00:54:00] Um, usually the schools will still try to help athletes out and you might have a partial athletic scholarship and then they’ll give you a little bit of merit stuff and then you’ll have work study and they’ll kind of patchwork some things together.

Um, but that’s not guaranteed that you won’t have to pay out of pocket if you are either going to a D2 or an NAIA school or have a partial athletic scholarship at a D1 school.

Moderator: Okay, so next question we have, um, and this came from our, uh, registered, um, list, um, those who had registered for the webinar. Um, and so this question reads, how do I handle if, um, my dad, my dad unfortunately passed away and my mom is unfortunately unemployed, um, when entering salary for my dad on FAFSA.

Ashly: Yeah. So, um, they will ask, the, the FAFSA is going to [00:55:00] ask about kind of your guardianship and, and who’s around. So, um, one, you’ll be able to indicate that, um, there’s, you only have one guardian. Um, two, your taxes should indicate some of that, like they’ll be able to glean some of it from your taxes. Um, but what I also usually recommend is that if you’re really concerned that still the taxes are not telling the whole story or that you know, it’s really important that the school know about that whole part of your situation, then I usually recommend that you put it in the additional comments section of your actual application.

Um, and make sure that the school understands that, you know, you only have your mom, um, for parental support and that you know she’s, that she’s [00:56:00] unemployed. Um, if you do, if you’re going to schools with CSS profile, you’ll have plenty of opportunities. Um, and you’ll be able to demonstrate that all throughout the CSS profile.

But since the FAFSA is so cut and dry and basically just asking for your 1040, your parents’ 1040 information, um, then I would say for FAFSA only schools, go ahead and put that in the additional information or additional material section.

Moderator: Thank you, Ashly. Um, do scholarships impact financial eligibility?

Ashly: So, um, so scholarships are financial aid. Um, so are you, do you, if you’re, if you’re referring to external scholarships, um, then no. They should not impact your eligibility. Mm-hmm. Now what they could do is impact the size of your financial [00:57:00] aid package. Schools cannot, students are not allowed to have financial aid packages from any resources that are greater than the cost of attendance of that school, because the Department of Education wants to make sure that you’re not like, profiting off of, you know, scholarship funds.

So, the cost of attendance is the absolute limit that you can get. So say you go to a school that’s $40,000 a year cost of attendance, you get a $20,000 scholarship from the school, your parents are like, we’ll pay $10,000. And then you get a $20,000 external scholarship. What’s going to happen is that, well, let’s say, yeah.

What’s going to happen is that that scholarship is going to obviously cover your parents’ part and that other 10,000 that you owed. If you got a $30,000 scholarship, then they would say, okay, great. We’re $40,000 now. [00:58:00] Instead of us giving you 20, we’re gonna give you 10, and then we’ll take the other 30 that you just got from that external award and we’ll package that together.

And that’s how it’ll happen. That doesn’t mean if you get an external scholarship one year that they’re gonna keep doing that every year. They will adjust your financial aid package based on the external scholarships that come in as they come in.

Moderator: Okay. So, um, going back to that question earlier, um, that I needed to paraphrase a little bit more.

Um, so do colleges look at financial need to learn more about the student’s life? Even if the college says that they are need blind?

Ashly: They should not be. Um, that’s, that’s the answer. If they have not made an admissions decision about the student, they should not be looking at your financials during the admissions decision process.

Um, it’s up to you as a student at a need blind school if you think [00:59:00] that it’s important and that’s an important part of your story. Um, whatever your family’s financial circumstances are, that’s your decision, whether or not you include that in your application, whether it’s through additional comments, whether it’s something that you talk about in your personal statement, um, that’s your decision, but a need blind school.

Ideally, the people reading the applications don’t even have access to your finances. They couldn’t get them if they wanted to.

Moderator: Awesome. Thank you. And that is actually going to be our final question. I’m sure we’re gonna have another part to, or another version of this webinar coming again soon, because there’s just so much to learn about financial aid.

So thank you Ashly, for sharing all this great information for our audience. And the last thing I wanna share with everyone is that we do have a few more webinars that we’re hosting this month. Every month [01:00:00] though, we are hosting different webinars that are geared to supporting you through the application process.

And yes, this webinar is being recorded and you will be able to receive a copy of it in the next few minutes, after the conclusion of it. So with that, thank you all again. Thank you Ashley, and good night.