|Image borrowed from http://www.afatherspeaks.com/|
Yesterday's post was a little terse, probably to do with it being a long day and me posting after midnight, so here are some details for anyone who's interested.
FAFSA? - that's the "Free Application for Federal Student Aid". Every college that you're going to ask for financial aid (and is there anyone who is so rich that they aren't going to at least ask?) is going to want you to fill this out. You fill in information about your family situation, college plans and any savings you have. Then copy some data from your Federal tax forms (1040 and W2). By some magical formula they tell you how much you can afford to spend to send your kid to school. It seemed like a crazy number to me, but I suppose there are loans as well as how much you can spare from your budget. It'll be interesting to see how this number translates to financial aid packets, but we've got some months to wait there.
CSS? - "College Scholarship Service". This is a longer and more complicated form than the FAFSA, but I think it serves a similar purpose. This application is administered by College Board, the same people who administer the SAT and AP tests. It also costs $9 to fill out and $16 per college that you send it to, while the FAFSA is free. For HSS, every school that she's applying to except the two University of Maryland system schools and Drexel required this form. There was a fair amount of detailed information that they're looking for about other kids in the family and other expenses, as well as investments and savings. I guess it should provide a better understanding of our full economic situation. On the other hand, it didn't spit out a single "you can afford this per year" number like the FAFSA did, so I really don't know if we fared better or worse.
The additional data that some school require is mainly copies of 1040s and W2s, either through some sort of secure document handling service that College Board provides (IDOC) or directly to the college. One college (Bucknell) seems to have their own application for financial aid as well as needing the FAFSA and the CSS. Honestly, I don't know how much more information I can provide, but since I'm the one asking for money, I guess they can ask whatever they want.