“Start the process early and ask questions,” some great words of advice from Chelsea Adams, Senior Associate Director of Financial Aid at Clark University. 

In our latest “Learn from the Experts” webinar, Chelsea and Diane Anchundia, Dean of Loans and Outreach at USC, take a deep dive into the financial aid process, reviewing common questions and sharing advice for those completing the form.

Some key takeaways from our session:

  • Types and Sources of Financial Aid: free money (grants and scholarships) and “self-help” (generally student loans and work-study) are the two major categories of financial aid available to families. Free money and self-help may be available from various sources for those applying to college, including the federal government, state government, and (potentially) the college or university.
  • Financial Aid Process: presenters review the two primary financial aid forms, the FAFSA and CSS Profile, the importance of deadlines for submitting both forms, and why families should always check with the office of financial assistance if they have any questions.
  • Financial Aid Forms: income and assets are the two primary components asked on the FAFSA and CSS Profile. Both parents and students will report income and asset information. While both forms require this information, the CSS Profile will ask more detailed questions than the FAFSA.
  • Special Circumstances and Financial Aid Appeals: generally speaking, families should submit the financial aid application “as is” before reaching out to the college, says Adams. Colleges will want to review the initial application before considering any special circumstances. Most colleges will have a formal appeal process.
  • Net Price Calculator: every college or university is required to have a net price calculator. This tool allows families to get an idea of what their financial aid package might look like at a particular college or university. It is a good tool, especially for families looking to get a baseline of their financial aid and better understand the four-year financial commitment, says Anchundia.

Watch the entire recording here.

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