Part Seven: FAFSA and CSS

As you journey through your college process and figure out the do's and dont's of what to do there are many things, that are not told to you. Unless you are privileged enough to acquire a college counselor or someone who can help you every step of the way in the process I encourage you to do research and  ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS. Asking questions has probably been the most helpful thing. Just assuming something or trying to figure it out yourself is the difference between getting missing a deadline or gaining a wonderful  opportunity.

With the college process there are many things that are important but the most important is getting financial aid. Unless you are super rich or have had a college fund since you were born, you need to be meticulous about applying to scholarships and filling out all the financial aid applications.

As far as I know of there are two very important applications that need to be filled out for colleges to receive any type of aid. FAFSA and CSS profile. These two applications are universal in aiding students in the United States to receive some sort of financial assistance with college bills.

FAFSA- Free Application For Federal Student Aid
CSS- College Scholarship Services

The first and more commonly known, FAFSA, is a government application where you will list, describe and fill out a form detailing your financial status. With this application make sure to include ALL the schools that you applied to whether you've been accepted to them or not! Institutions base their aid from what the government is willing to give you. But keep in mind state affiliated grants and programs do not apply to you if you attend a school on another state (each state has its own financial programs and grants so the amount of money offered may vary).

The second and less known, CSS profile, is an application where you list every detail of your financial status. This is an application that many private colleges ask for because they typically have more money to offer their students and want to know what exactly your financials look like before they award any additional aid. This is a tricky application because some private schools do not require this. So it is imperative to know which schools need it and when they want it by. Whether it be FAFSA or CSS schools have their own deadlines, there is not one universal date that they all want it by. So my advice would be the earlier the better.

Some tips to help when you are filling out these applications
  • Make sure to set aside time to fill out these applications, they take a good 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Always ask for help, have someone that has done this before to help you as you fill them out.
  • List EVERY school that you applied to (all colleges on FAFSA, all private colleges who asked on CSS).
  • Make sure to know when deadlines are, missing out on an opportunity to receive aid from a school is not the way to go.
  • ASK QUESTIONS, don't be afraid! I have asked my school counselors numerous questions on every topic, I've also emailed many of my colleges admissions and financial offices. I've even called many of my colleges just to sort minor and major details out.
 After filling out these applications at a maximum it takes two weeks to process all the data and to award you aid, that's why I mentioned doing everything as soon as you can. Many times we have tunnel vision and think we are the only ones that applied to that school. You must be patient while waiting for these documents and responses from schools. Trust me, waiting is not one of my strengths. I was anxious and constantly checking my email and mail box. But once it finally came it put things into perspective.

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