There is a lot of information floating around the internet about how a school constructs your financial aid package. In fact, this might be one of the most misunderstood parts of the financial aid process and something we have talked a lot about here at Money for College Project. There seems to be a large disconnect between submitting a FAFSA and receiving your financial aid package back in the mail.
By working in a financial aid office for many years, I have become a little jaded to the fact that these letters are difficult to understand. However, every time I meet with a student who is lost about the entire process, it become clear to me all over again, that this is really confusing!
I am always trying to find better ways to explain this process to students and parents, and I ran across a video recently that I think does an excellent job of explaining how the process works. The video is created by Brown University, so there are a few Brown specific statements made, but overall 98% of the information presented will work at all colleges across the U.S. The information is so universal because virtually all colleges accept federal financial aid, and the U.S. Government regulates how their funds are awarded.
A few notes on the video:
- Not all schools meet 100% of demonstrated need when creating their financial aid packages (most Ivy League and top tier schools do).
- Often times loans are included in your financial aid package
- If your parents are divorced or separated, you will use the parent income for the parent you live with (Brown’s non-custodial parent application is not required at most schools)
- The FAFSA can be submitted on January 1st, in preparation for the upcoming Fall semester in August.