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calculating college costs & completing FAFSA

Regardless of whether you or your family have been building a nest egg or a 529 account, the cost to attend college is expensive. Becoming familiar with the terminology of "College Financial Aid” and utilizing tools like the Netprice Calculator and the FAFSA4caster, can make estimating college costs easier, clarify if you qualify for need-based financial aid, and help prioritize which colleges should be on your college list. Understanding the financial aid lingo will help you find answers to your financial need questions, and will help prepare you for the FAFSA process, which opens on October 1st. It will also help you assess if an Early Decision application path is viable and the right plan for you.

Here's a list of questions to help you get started.

  • Will I qualify for financial aid – either need-based or merit aid?

  • What is the difference between need-based and merit aid?

  • Can merit aid bring the cost to attend college closer to what I will pay at a public university in my home state?

  • Which schools will be likely to give me merit aid?

  • What is EFC (Expected Family Contribution), and how can I find out what mine will be? Note. This will be changing July 1, 2023, to the Student Aid Index (SAI).

  • What documents will I need to start filling out the FAFSA form?

  • How do I fill out the FAFSA form?

  • What is the difference between FAFSA and CSS? Do I need to fill out both the FAFSA and CSS for all schools on my college list?

The FAFSA form will be available on October 1st

Applicants can access the FAFSA form at or on the myStudentAid mobile app.

8 Steps to Completing the FAFSA form.

How to create your FSA ID

The CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service Profile). Used for Merit Aid.

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