Navigating Financial Aid: [Free] Tips for Success

Read, Navigating Financial Aid: [Free] Tips for Success

Navigating Financial Aid: [Free] Tips for Success

Guest post from the Deputy Director of Student Financial Aid at The University of Pennsylvania.


In every school, there are financial aid professionals who can guide you through the process of making college affordable. Applying for financial aid is— without question— complicated. Like other money-related concerns, it can be scary and can add anxiety to the college application process. My first recommendation will always be to begin the college application process without letting costs hold you back. Apply to the schools for which you have a strong interest. Apply where you can find the programs that you like. We will help you figure out how to pay for your educational expenses.


Below are my top 10 pieces of advice for navigating the financial aid process:


  • The FAFSA and CSS Profile are available on October 1 of every year. Complete these applications as soon as possible so schools can begin their review process.
  • Some schools require you only submit the FAFSA. Other schools will also need the CSS profile. Verify which application you must submit for each school by checking their financial aid websites.
  • Completing all applications and required documentation early maximizes your potential eligibility of financial aid programs.
  • Provide two-years prior of tax information (Prior-Prior Year).
  • Check the financial aid websites for each of the school to which you are applying. Every school has different deadlines for Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Decision admissions.
  • Remember, the FAFSA is free. The CSS Profile costs $25 to fill out and submit to one school, and $16 each for additional school.
  • If you must complete the CSS Profile, verify that you complete the correct application: there are two different profiles — for domestic students or for international students. There is also a non-custodial parent application.
  • Schools may have merit-based aid and/or need-based aid. Ask questions about each school’s criteria for different types of aid.
  • Check the Net Price Calculator at each school to review your potential costs and financial aid eligibility.
  • Check each school for its outside scholarships and tuition benefits policies as each school might apply outside funding differently to your award package.


We are always here to help. Do not hesitate to reach out to a financial aid office near you.


Erick Herrera

Deputy Director of Student Financial Aid

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