Bishop Connolly’s Guidance Department offers opportunities for learning about the college financial aid process, including a College Planning Night for juniors and their parents. Information about student eligibility, FAFSA and the CSS Profile may be found here. Individual consultations with our guidance counselors are also available. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call the BCHS Guidance Department at 508.676.1071 x307.
A student’s eligibility for financial aid is based primarily on his or her financial need, which is defined as the difference between what it will cost the student to attend a particular school and the amount the student and parents are expected to be able to contribute toward that cost annually. This contribution is called Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The financial aid system starts with the premise that the student and parents bear the primary responsibility for funding the student’s education, considering family size, income and other factors that impact the family’s ability to pay for that education.
Determining a Student’s EFC
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
FAFSA is the primary methodology in determining the EFC. All applicants seeking federal financial aid must complete this application. It is the only financial aid application that is required by all federally-aided two- and four-year colleges. The federal government, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and college financial aid officers all utilize the results of the FAFSA to determine a family’s EFC. Financial need is the difference between the EFC and the total cost of attending a particular college for a given year. Note: there is an expectation that the student will save some money every summer beginning with the summer prior to the start of the freshman year in college.
College Scholarship Service (CSS) Financial Aid Profile
In addition to the FAFSA, many private two- and four-year institutions ask applicants to complete the CSS Profile to determine eligibility for non-government financial aid, such as the institution’s own grants, loans and scholarships. Using different information for determining the EFC, the CSS Profile usually produces an EFC that is higher than the FAFSA EFC. Information from the Profile cannot be used to disburse federal funds.
FAFSA and CSS PROFILE Filing Dates
The FAFSA may be filed beginning October 1 to access aid for the upcoming academic year. An early application will help get the best possible financial aid package. The FAFSA should be filed electronically at www.fafsa.ed.gov. A limited supply of paper FAFSAs are available in the Guidance Office. CSS Profile registration can be completed by phone or online at www.collegeboard.com. The initial registration should be completed as soon as an applicant knows all of the schools to which he/she is planning to apply. While colleges can be added later for additional cost, it will be advantageous if the student can code in colleges to which they are applying on the initial form.
Once registered, students complete an online application or receive a paper version of the application. The online version is the fastest way to complete the process and is slightly less expensive. The application process should be completed and filed in time to meet the earliest deadline specified by any one of the colleges to which the student is applying.
Strategies For Getting a Better Financial Aid Package
Try all possible sources of financial aid. The more financial aid sources you explore, the greater your chances of success.
Contact each school. Look into financial aid resources at each school you are considering. Write to the financial aid office as soon as you send in your application for admission. Remember that applying for financial aid does not impact your chances of gaining acceptance by colleges.
Apply early. Apply for financial aid as early as possible. Though deadlines for individual schools vary, the application for Federal Student Aid can be sent as early as October 1. An early application will help you gain the best financial aid package possible.
Apply and reapply. Do not forget to apply for financial aid every year that you are in school. Even if you receive aid during one year, you must reapply to get it for the next year.
Get to know your financial aid officer. Establish a relationship with your university’s financial aid officer. This way you can talk to someone you know if questions arise during the year.
Be prepared. Consider filing taxes as early in the year as possible. Do not wait until the April 15 deadline. You need information from your tax forms in order to complete the financial aid applications. It is better to input information from actual forms rather than to make estimates.
private scholarship services: a word of caution
The BCHS Guidance Office recommends that you do not use any of the private scholarship services which may mail you forms “guaranteeing” to locate sources of aid. Our office knows of no such program that justifies the expense. If you decide to use one of these services, find out exactly under what conditions you are entitled to a refund. Be forewarned that obtaining refunds from these companies can be difficult. There are a number of websites that provide free scholarship searches.