Financial Aid & FAFSA


Parents and students…now is the time to get acquainted with the FAFSA! Whether or not you feel you have a need for financial aid, filing the FAFSA application should be at the top of your college preparation list! The following is some basic information for all high school students and their families…you are encouraged to explore the FAFSA website further at:

College Preparation Checklist @




How To Use The Checklist

Q: Who should use the checklist?
A: Students (of all ages) who haven't attended college or trade school, and parents of students in elementary and secondary school.

Q: What is the checklist?
A: A “to do” list, starting with elementary school, to help students prepare academically and financially for education beyond high school. Each section is split into subsections for students and parents, explaining what to do and which publications or Web sites might be useful to them.

Q: When should a student or parent refer to the checklist?
A: At the beginning of every school year, and then more frequently as college approaches.


To Do:

  • Work with one of your parents to update your information in FAFSA4caster at, and continue to save for college.
  • Take challenging classes in core academic subjects. Most colleges require 4 years of English, at least 3 years of social studies (history, civics, geography, economics, etc.), 3 years of mathematics, and 3 years of science, and many require 2 years of a foreign language. Round out your course load with classes in computer science and the arts.
  • Stay involved in school- or community-based activities that interest you or let you explore career interests. Consider working or volunteering. Remember-it's quality (not quantity) that counts.
  • Talk to your school counselor and other mentors about education after high school. Your counselor can answer questions about what classes to take in high school, how to sign up for standardized tests, and where to get money for college.

To Explore:

  • Check out KnowHow2Go: The Four Steps to College, which suggests some actions you can take as you start thinking about education beyond high school. The online version of the brochure is at
  • Get answers to common questions about college: Read the “college q&a question of the week” at
  • Learn about managing your money in the “Financial Literacy” section


To Do:

  • Continue to talk to your child about college plans as if he or she will definitely go to college.
  • Keep an eye on your child's study habits and grades- stay involved.
  • Encourage your child to take Advanced Placement or other challenging classes.
  • Watch videos for parents on the “News Parents Can Use” page at
  • Add to your child's college savings account regularly.

To Explore:

  • Address your concerns about whether your child can or should go to college in the “parents/family” section of
  • Explore for information on academic preparation, homeschooling, financial literacy, saving, and borrowing for college.
  • Learn from Help Your Child Improve in Test-Taking.


If you want to be considered for aid from your state or college, you must meet its FAFSA deadline. If you plan to go to college in the fall, your state financial aid deadline is probably going to be between March and May; and your college financial aid deadline could be as early as February. The FAFSA site at lists many state deadlines and tells you how to find yours if it's not listed. For a college's FAFSA deadline, check the school 's Web site or contact its financial aid office.

Have Questions About Federal Student Aid And Want To Talk To A Real Person?

Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 1-800-730-8913 (TTY for the hearing impaired). Toll number: 1-319-337-5665.

Many of the publications mentioned in this checklist are available to order or download for free at

Find detailed federal student aid information at

Western Undergraduate Exchange Program (WUE)

The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) is a program of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). Students who are residents of WICHE states are eligible to request a reduced tuition rate of 150% of resident tuition at participating two- and four-year college programs outside of their home state. The WUE tuition rate is not automatically awarded to all eligible candidates. Many institutions limit the number of new WUE awards each academic year, so apply early!

WICHE states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.


{Reprinted from the College Board News, March 1999. Volume 27, Number 3. Published by The College Board, New York, New York.}

Applying to college is such a complex process that even knowing what to ask is a daunting obstacle for many students and families. Financial aid policies and procedures are varied and ever changing, often with unanticipated implications. For example, a common source of misunderstanding is the extent to which financial aid plays a role in college admissions decisions. Without asking the right questions up front, families can make mistaken assumptions about whether institutions are need-conscious or need-blind.

What are the key questions that families need answered? The College Scholarship Service (CSS) has prepared a list of financial aid questions for high education consumers when applying to, deciding upon, and going to college.

“Students are looking at multiple applications, multiple deadlines, and multiple policies without having a clear set of expectations shaped by critical questions,” said Jack Joyce, manager of communications for CSS. “They need the full picture before they decided where to make their financial commitment.”

A working group of financial aid professionals in the CSS Council prepared the list as a way to standardize the information gathering process so that families are informed and understand college costs, financial aid, and even how it affects the application process. For instance, families may not realize that financial aid deadlines can precede application deadlines and that deadlines may differ depending on the college's policies for institutional aid, the acceptance of FASFA, and/or the CSS PROFILE. In addition, they may not realize that renewal of a first-year financial aid award is not automatic.

“At the college selection point and when the student leaves home, there are questions they need to ask to ensure they fully understand the cost of college,” Joyce said. “They need to be aware not only of directly billed costs such as tuition and fees but of everything they are expected to pay for over the following nine month - books, supplies, transportation, and personal expenses.”

The list of 20 consumer-oriented questions listed here also represents a set of disclosure guidelines-a helpful tool for college admissions and financial aid professionals in communicating with families. For further information, contact Dorothy Sexton, director, CSS Administration, at
Questions and guidelines:

Phase 1: Applying to College

These questions need to be answered in this phase:

~ What institutions fit my child's academic and social interests and educational objectives?
~ How much can we commit financially to help our child meet his or her educational goals?

College admissions and financial aid advisers should provide the following information to answer these questions:

  • The average costs for tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and other personal expenses for the first year. How much will total costs increase each year?
  • What are financial aid decisions based on at a particular institution? Need-blind financial status has no impact on the admissions decision. Need-sensitive/need-aware financial status can be a factor in the decision.
  • How is eligibility for college-sponsored aid programs determined and what college-specific adjustments, if any, are made to standard need-analysis formulas?
  • What types of financial aid programs does the institution offer and does the institution offer merit or other scholarships that do not include consideration of financial need?
  • What forms are required to complete the financial aid process and what is the priority deadline for applying for financial aid? When will families be notified about financial aid decision?

Phase 2: Deciding

During this phase, families have decided whether it is financially possible for the child to enroll in the college or university that is the best fit academically and socially.

To make this decision, the following information from the colleges or universities they are considering is helpful:

  • How much financial aid will the student receive? Will they be billed for their share of the costs? Are there any other costs they should plan for that are not accounted for in the aid offer, such as expenses for books, transportation, or personal needs?
  • If parents cannot meet the financial responsibilities from current income or assets, what financing options are available to help them pay their share?
  • Why does the aid package offered by this institution differ so much from this other college when costs at the two schools are so similar?
  • If the financial aid offered is insufficient to make it possible for our child to attend this institution, will the aid office reconsider their offer?
  • What are the terms and conditions of the aid programs included in our child's aid package (e.g. treatment of outside scholarships, loan repayment policies, renewal criteria, etc.)?
  • How will our child's aid package change from year to year? How will cost increases impact the aid package? What will happen if our financial situation changes in another year?

Phase 3: Before Leaving Home

By the end of this phase of the process, the family, having already committed to a single college or university, should be clear about their financial obligations and how to meet them. Getting answers to the following questions from the student's chosen college should be helpful:

  • When can we expect to receive bills from the institution? How many times a year will we be billed? Are late fees assessed if the bill is not paid by the deadline? Does the institution accept payment via credit card? Is there an option to pay monthly?
  • Is all financial aid credited to our child's account, or will our child receive checks for some or all of the financial aid awarded? On what schedule are checks issued? Does the institution help students manage their money responsibly.
  • How much money will our child need during the first week of school for things such as books, parking permit, etc.? Can financial aid be used to pay for books and supplies? Can books and supplies be charged to our child's account? What are the typical out-of-pocket incidental expenses incurred during the year by most students?
  • Is there a bank on campus? An ATM?
  • What will happen to the financial aid award if there is a significant change in family financial circumstances? In our child's or sibling's enrollment status?
  • Our child was awarded Work-Study. How are jobs assigned? How many hours per week will our child be expected to work?
  • What are the academic requirements for renewing the financial aid award?