Financial Aid FAQs
If I am concerned about the cost of college, should I only apply to state schools?
Due to the complexity of the financial aid system and the increasing use of merit aid to attract desirable students, private colleges’ costs may end up being close to or less than that of public colleges. Campus Bound will help you to explore the possibilities. In the end, you might be surprised.
What is financial aid and am I eligible for aid?
Financial aid comes in two forms, need-based and merit-based. Colleges provide need-based aid in money that does not have to be paid back (grants) and self-help money (loans and work-study). Colleges will vary in the construct of their aid awards. There is no specific income level that indicates whether a family is eligible for need-based aid. The formulas used are complicated and take into consideration income, assets, outside resources, school cost, and family makeup. If you are not sure we would encourage you to contact Campus Bound for a no obligation financial aid eligibility assessment.
Many, but not all, colleges provide merit scholarships. These are scholarships or grants that do not need to be paid back and are used to entice desirable students to attend their college. What classifies a student as “desirable” varies from college to college but can be based on academic credentials, athletic or artistic talent, diversity, leadership, geographic diversity or other factors deemed important to the college. Campus Bound can help you determine what opportunities exist for you at certain schools based on your profile.
Do I have to fill out more than just the FAFSA forms?
The FAFSA form is required by all colleges. However, approximately 350 schools will also require you to fill out the College Board CSS Profile form. When printed, this form is fifteen pages long and certain schools will add their own questions as well. Additionally, schools may have their own forms as well as forms for non-custodial parents and business owners. Certain schools may require completed tax information. Campus Bound supports you in keeping track of these requirements and ensuring that everything is done properly so that financial support is not missed.
If I have significant equity in our home will that reduce my chances of receiving financial aid?
Not necessarily. Many colleges do not even look at your home as an asset while others will cap the value based on your income level. This is just one example of how colleges can vary what they consider in their formulas. If college cost is a concern, Campus Bound can help you to identify which colleges are more likely to give you a better aid package based on your financial and academic profile.
Will applying for financial aid hurt my child’s chances for admissions?
It depends on the school and how much financial aid you require. At certain colleges, usually those with better endowments, a “need-blind” policy is used meaning that there is no impact on the admissions process. At schools that are “need-aware” the students with higher need may have their chances impacted but usually only if they are borderline applicants. There is also a chance that the school could accept you but provide less than a desired aid package. Generally speaking, the mere act of applying will not affect your chances for admission. Families should find out the colleges’ specific policies and learn how their financial need will be determined by each school to better understand the potential impact of applying for aid. This is another area where Campus Bound can help.
Is it better to have the student or parent take the loan?
The question can be answered from both a philosophical and financial perspective. Some parents feel that this is their obligation and want to avoid having their child start their careers with extensive debt. Conversely, some students will be motivated by understanding that they need to get the most of the financial commitment that they are making. Students are also gaining the benefit of the education and have more time to pay it off. From a financial perspective, terms of parent loans (college or home equity loans) and student loans are roughly comparable and it is important to compare specific offers from lenders. In most years, the federal Stafford loan program (for the student ) will be more favorable than private options.
Is it worth it to fill out the financial aid form if I don’t think I will qualify?
Yes. The FAFSA form is free to complete and if you have to complete the CSS Profile it costs just $18/per school. Colleges are fully aware that families that just miss qualifying for aid are facing a huge financial burden and that aid—either need-based or merit-based—could make a big difference in a student’s decision to attend.
Can’t I just fill the forms out myself or have my CPA help?
The government, College Board (the CSS Profile processor) and colleges have tried to simplify these forms and provide instructions. Unfortunately, these forms and their instructions remain extensive and confusing. The FAFSA form instructions are sixty-three (63) pages long! It’s no surprise that according to the Department of Education over 90% of applicants make a mistake on their FAFSA. And the FAFSA is easy compared to the CSS Profile.
At Campus Bound, we not only know the forms but also the formulas behind them, so we can give you the confidence that you are not making costly mistakes. We help you to meet the deadlines in the most efficient manner possible and understand how your financial decisions can impact your chances for aid. That’s why CPAs and financial planners call us to help their clients.