Financial Aid: Frequently Asked Questions
How do I apply for financial aid?
Federal and state financial aid is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form is available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov or from your guidance counselor or college financial aid officer. Private institutions generally also require applicants to fill out the College Scholarship Service Profile, or CSS PROFILE.
When are financial aid applications due?
Both the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE deadline (for first-year students) falls sometime between January and March. If you do nothing else to prepare to pay for college, get your financial aid forms in early! The money available for student aid is limited.
Also note that financial aid forms must be filed annually, and returning students may have different form requirements from first-year students.
What documentation do I need to submit to support my application?
Depending on the institution, students may need to submit a variety of additional documentation. Examples include tax forms, an institutional aid application, a noncustodial parent statement, W-2 forms, and documentation on untaxed income.
How do schools determine how much financial aid to award?
Many factors go into determining how much aid you will receive each year. These factors, taken from the FAFSA and any other forms you fill out, may include the number of family members you have, how many family members are also in college, your summer earnings, your family’s earnings, and your family’s debt.
Using this information, the financial aid office will determine how much of the educational costs you and your family can cover, and then try to give you enough aid to make up the difference between those costs and your family’s expected contribution.
How do I figure out how much I will have to pay out of pocket for a particular school?
All colleges and universities are federally mandated to host a net price calculator on their websites. This calculator allows parents and students to input information similar to that required for the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE and get a better sense of what type of aid resources colleges and universities will offer them. Note that this process creates an estimate of your net costs. Your actual financial aid package may differ.
What resources are available to help pay for college?
For a list of grants, scholarships, tuition waivers, and loans available in Massachusetts, visit the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance at www.osfa.mass.edu, 617-391-6070, firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on federal aid and loans, visit Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education.
How much money should I be prepared to borrow to pay for college?
Only you and your family can answer this question, but here are a few tips:
- Start by considering federal student loans; they are guaranteed with a fixed interest rate.
- Don’t borrow more than you need; loans should be a last resort. MEFA provides a monthly payment calculator to help you estimate your loan payments.
- Read the fine print and pay attention to fees, terms, and conditions. Look for a lender that is transparent about its programs.
How and when will I be notified that I am eligible for financial aid?
Once your financial aid file is complete and your application has been reviewed, you will receive an award letter from the institution to which you have applied. Letters or emails are generally sent out sometime between February and April.