Paying for college can certainly be a major concern for families. Understanding the forms of aid available can help.
There are two primary forms of aid available to help families pay for college:
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. When should we plan to pay for college?
Q. How can we find out how much various colleges cost?
Note that due to financial aid, many families may pay less than the whole “sticker price” of a college. Look on individual college websites for a “Net Price Calculator” to determine if your family qualifies for need-based aid. All colleges are required t post a Net Price Calculator, so if you have trouble locating one, ask the college's financial aid website or google "net price calculator" and the name of the college.
Q. Should I apply only to colleges that I know I can afford?
A. Do not be misled by the "sticker price" of college! Sometimes the most expensive colleges are able to provide the most financial aid! The best way to find out how much a certain college will cost is to use the Net Price Calculator on each college's website to help estimate your costs and the amount of aid for which your family may be eligible and/or contact that school's financial aid office and request help. ASFA also provides financial aid application resources for students and parents/guardians each year.
But you should have at least one "financial foundation college," where the student knows s/he can get admitted and the family knows they can afford. This guarantees that student has at least one solid back up.
Q. When do we fill out the financial aid forms?
A. Usually between October 1st-March 1st of the 12th grade year, but varies by college. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opens October 1st each year. Check with all of your prospective colleges on when their deadlines are to have the FAFSA completed.
Q. Can you tell me how to get scholarships?
A. Although ASFA students have an incredible history of winning scholarships well above the national average, there is no magic formula. Although Mrs. Rutsky wishes that she had a hotline to the financial aid offices at colleges that she could ring up to get all ASFA students scholarships, no such thing exists. Each student and family has to do the research and paperwork themselves. However, the following advice will help guide your process:
1. Follow Colleges' Financial Aid Instructions. The most important things to do are: find out from your prospective colleges how to apply for scholarships, follow their instructions completely, and meet all deadlines. For most students, the majority of financial aid comes from the college that they attend. Research this on the college website, but be sure to also talk with an admission and/or financial aid officer to be sure you understand the process at their school because application processes vary from college to college. One place to start is the financial aid/scholarships section on the website of individual colleges that you interest you.
2. Need-Based Aid: Check the Financial Aid page of the colleges to which your child is applying to see what is required.
Need-based aid applications are usually done between October 1-February or March of the student's senior year for regular decision, but be sure to check to see what your individual college's specific deadlines are. If you apply Early Decision or Early Action, the deadline will likely be in the fall near the application deadline. (Be sure to ask your colleges when their financial aid deadlines are for the decision plan under which you are applying.) Students must reapply for need-based aid every year in order to qualify for aid the following school year.
3. Searching for Merit Scholarships: Students and families must do their own research to find scholarship opportunities that are relevant to them. This web page www.asfa.k12.al.us/scholarships offers a list of trusted merit scholarship search resources, plus step-by-step instructions on locating individualized scholarship opportunities.
Q. What if we were offered financial aid, but it's not enough?
your financial aid offers still aren’t what you need,, you can request a Professional Judgment Review from the college financial aid office. Here are links to tips
for requesting a professional review of your aid offer. The first tip is don’t
ever call it “negotiating” to avoid offending colleges. is a good place to
begin, and tell you
what not to do. For more detail, read
Q. What if we don’t think we’ll qualify for aid?
Even if you think it's unlikely or don't know if your family will qualify for aid, there are many good reasons to apply anyway. Read The Wall Street Journal’s article “Why Wealthy Families Should Apply for College Financial Aid.”
Q. We received an offer or information about an honor for which our child is eligible. Should we do it?
Buyer beware. There are many, many scams and questionable offers out there that masquerade as so-called honors, study or travel programs, or other "exclusive" offers. Please take the time to read Honor or Scam? Sorting Out Legitimate Opportunities from Junk Mail, and if you have any questions about any college or scholarship-related offer or enrichment opportunity that your family receives, please contact Mrs. Rutsky.
Q. Should we pay for a service that offers to fill out financial aid forms or that guarantees financial aid?
A. NO!! These so-called services are examples of the many types of financial aid scams of which students and families need to steer clear. Although they may start with a “free seminar,” guaranteed results,” or similar incentive, they are scams nonetheless. The main thing to know is that the federal government provides the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and as its name suggests, it is FREE!! You should never, ever pay anyone to fill out financial aid forms for you. If you need assistance, the FAFSA offers toll-free customer service by phone, and any college financial aid office can assist you. AVOID the website fasfa.com, which looks just like the real FAFSA, but charges a hefty fee; it is a scam! Find out more about financial aid and scholarship scams.
Q. What if I have more questions?
A. See Free Help to Fill Out the FAFSA linked near the end of this page.
In addition, all colleges have financial aid offices that you may contact regarding the FAFSA, any other documents that your prospective colleges may require for financial aid consideration, and other questions.
We have also posted a video of the September 2018 Financial Aid workshop hosted at ASFA on our Video & Audio page.