With apologies to Shakespeare, the question of whether or not to check a single box on the Common Application form raises college applicants’ anxiety levels to new heights each and every year.

Families can work themselves into a tizzy by worrying that if they check the box, they may be diminishing their student’s probability of admission. Do you have questions like this?

A common line of questioning that we see each year comes in the following format.

For a school like ABC College where the admissions office and the financial aid office have a close relationship (i.e. not “need blind”) are we running any risk to submitting the CSS Profile and FAFSA knowing that we will not qualify for aid and that we will probably look like a wealthy family? Should we only submit the FAFSA and not the CSS Profile to ABC College?

Also, there is a question on the application that asks if the student will be applying for need-based financial aid. Can we check “yes” and only submit the FAFSA for that school? Will they assume that we will be submitting the CSS Profile too? Is the “yes” just for school-based aid?

Since data is so openly shared between the financial aid office and admissions, I worry about them being turned off by a “wealthy” family applying for need-based aid from the school via the CSS Profile.

I also don’t want the aid application, i.e. the school seeing all our finances, to negatively impact the student’s ability to get a merit scholarship, but I guess they will see the same financial information from the FAFSA even if we do not submit the CSS Profile.

Whoa. See the stress this conundrum creates?

Here’s how we help families navigate this process.

We asked a Director of Financial Aid at a highly selective Liberal Arts College for a ruling on this and received this response.

The rule-of-thumb for applying for institutional need-based grants

If you need grant (need-based) assistance in order to send your son/daughter to college, then you should apply using whatever form(s) the college requires and indicate that you intend to apply for fin aid on the admission application
If you do not need grant (need-based) assistance in order to send your son/daughter, but you wish to be considered for Federal/state aid (loans/work/state awards), then file the FAFSA and indicate that you do not intend to apply for fin aid on the admission app

Generally speaking, colleges are “turned on” (not off) by wealthy families, and confirmation of that wealth via a FAFSA/Profile application is going to be a good thing at 99%, if not all, colleges. The only exception to a “confirmation of wealth” thing might be the very top tier colleges who are looking to be more economically diverse (for example: Amherst, Williams, etc.). But simply applying for aid and being deemed a “no-need” family, would not affect anything anyway.

On another note, if a student does not apply for aid in the initial application process, and declares that they need additional aid later (for example, when a younger sibling enters college and now with two in school, the family has significant need-based aid elibility), they may have difficulty getting any help at some colleges.

Here’s an example from a college in New England:

Students who do not apply for financial aid prior to admission will not be considered for College grant assistance until their junior year, unless their family financial circumstances change unexpectedly.

Therefore, even though a Freshman with college-bound siblings right behind them, might not qualify for need-based aid, it still makes sense to apply for aid in order to be in the system at that college, when the family financial circumstances change “expectedly.”

It pays to know where you stand, before making the decision to file or not to file for aid.

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skull1With apologies to Shakespeare, the question of whether or not to check a single box on the Common Application form raises college applicants’ anxiety levels to new heights each and every year.

Families can work themselves into a tizzy by worrying that if they check the box, they may be diminishing their student’s probability of admission. Do you have questions like this?

A common line of questioning that we see each year comes in the following format.

For a school like ABC College where the admissions office and the financial aid office have a close relationship (i.e. not “need blind”) are we running any risk to submitting the CSS Profile and FAFSA knowing that we will not qualify for aid and that we will probably look like a wealthy family?  Should we only submit the FAFSA and not the CSS Profile to ABC College?

Also, there is a question on the application that asks if the student will be applying for need-based financial aid.  Can we check “yes” and only submit the FAFSA for that school?  Will they assume that we will be submitting the CSS Profile too? Is the “yes” just for school-based aid?

Since data is so openly shared between the financial aid office and admissions, I worry about them being turned off by a “wealthy” family applying for need-based aid from the school via the CSS Profile.

I also don’t want the aid application, i.e. the school seeing all our finances, to negatively impact the student’s ability to get a merit scholarship, but I guess they will see the same financial information from the FAFSA even if we do not submit the CSS Profile.

Whoa. See the stress this conundrum creates?

Here’s how we help families navigate this process.

We asked a Director of Financial Aid at a highly selective Liberal Arts College for a ruling on this and received this response.

The rule-of-thumb for applying for institutional need-based grants

  1.  If you need grant (need-based) assistance in order to send your son/daughter to college, then you should apply using whatever form(s) the college requires and indicate that you intend to apply for fin aid on the admission application
  2. If you do not need grant (need-based) assistance in order to send your son/daughter, but you wish to be considered for Federal/state aid (loans/work/state awards), then file the FAFSA and indicate that you do not intend to apply for fin aid on the admission app

 Generally speaking, colleges are “turned on” (not off) by wealthy families, and confirmation of that wealth via a FAFSA/Profile application is going to be a good thing at 99%, if not all, colleges.  The only exception to a “confirmation of wealth” thing might be the very top tier colleges who are looking to be more economically diverse (for example: Amherst, Williams, etc.). But simply applying for aid and being deemed a “no-need” family, would not affect anything anyway.

On another note, if a student does not apply for aid in the initial application process, and declares that they need additional aid later (for example, when a younger sibling enters college and now with two in school, the family has significant need-based aid elibility), they may have difficulty getting any help at some colleges.

Here’s an example from a college in New England:

  • Students who do not apply for financial aid prior to admission will not be considered for College grant assistance until their junior year, unless their family financial circumstances change unexpectedly.

Therefore, even though a Freshman with college-bound siblings right behind them, might not qualify for need-based aid, it still makes sense to apply for aid in order to be in the system at that college, when the family financial circumstances change “expectedly.”

It pays to know where you stand, before making the decision to file or not to file for aid.

 

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Christmas Planning in November? Do Your Early Action Financial Aid Forms First!

November 14, 2014

Tweet Tweet Students have begun submitting their applications for college admissions on the Early Action and Early Decision schedule. Some of those schools are now looking for your financial information. Do you know what to file? When to file? How to file? While the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form cannot be filed […]

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