Colleges require one or more of the following applications to apply for federal, state and institutional financial aid. In light of Covid-19, deadlines may have changed or vary from last year. Missing them can mean missing out on financial aid you would have been eligible for, so tracking deadlines for each college is important. Submit the applications as soon as you can once they’re available.  

1. FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is required by all colleges, and in some cases, it’s the only application required to apply for financial aid from all sources: federal, state and colleges and universities. Common deadlines are in January or February, possibly earlier if the student is applying for admission through early action or early decision. Don’t wait for deadlines to approach, you can complete the FAFSA online at fafsa.gov as early as October 1st for the upcoming year.

Before you begin, create your FSA ID (which you can do any time). This serves as your electronic signature and you will need it each year to complete the FAFSA. Dependent students and a parent need their own FSA ID.

 

2. CSS Profile

About 400 colleges and scholarship programs require the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA. The Profile is also available on October 1st and can be completed online at cssprofile.org.  Once there, you’ll find a list of colleges that currently require the form, but double check directly with each institution you’re applying to.

 

3. Institution or State Forms

Some colleges and state financial aid programs supplement these applications with their own form. Again, verify requirements and deadlines with each college.

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Eligibility can vary significantly from one college to the next simply because of the COA. At College A, the student can receive up to $40,000 in financial aid, but is only eligible for up to $10,000 at College B.Colleges determine eligibility for need-based financial...