BOSTON (CBS) – The first step in finding financial aid is to get the FAFSA form done. This Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required for students seeking financial aid, which includes grants and loans.

Set up an appointment with the guidance counselor and see what recommendations they may have. Then you and your kid get online and begin to check out various resources available.

Financial Aid money comes from the Federal Government, the states, colleges and private organizations and comes in different forms; grants and scholarships that don’t need to be repaid, jobs (so the kiddo can earn money), a variety of low cost loans and tax breaks.

Where to find the aid is up to the student and her family. There are resources for financial aid:

  • High school counseling office
  • Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, MEFA
  • Colleges’ financial aid office
  • S. Department of Education
  • Community groups & religious organizations for private scholarships
  • Find out what scholarships were given out last year at graduation and get an application
      Almost 300 schools also use the

CSS PROFILE

      Financial Aid Form, produced by the College Board. “CSS” stands for College Scholarship Service.

This form

      is used by colleges for determining non-federal financial aid, such as institutional scholarships, grants, and loans. There is a cost for filing the CSS form.

Also, find the Federal mandated Financial Aid Calculator, sometimes referred to as a Net Price Calculator, on the college websites. It can give you a pretty good idea how much that college will cost for your student. There are some colleges using a simplified approach created at Wellesley. I did one at UMASS Lowell and the one on the Wellesley website. The simplified approach is the way to go.

The financial aid forms need to be filled out every year you are requesting aid. The information on the form determines what your family can afford to pay; your expected family contribution.

The school’s financial aid departments also use the information in putting together the aid packages that comes in the award letter once the kiddo is accepted to their school.

Your income stream is what the schools are looking at as well as your assets. They expect you to pay a big chunk out of current income.

One more thing: The official FAFSA site is at www.FAFSA.gov – it’s not a “.com” website. If you go to a “.com” site, you will be asked to pay to submit the FAFSA form. This is a free form!

And you need to be aware of the scams that are out there that center around providing help to get your kid financial aid and filing the FAFSA form.

Another resource would be ASA, the American Student Assistance Corporation, which is a private, federally funded, non-profit organization that helps students and their families manage higher education debt. They have offices in Boston, Brockton and Chelsea.

A good resource would be the Peterson’s Guide. When my kids went to college we bought the book, now just go online.

How does Financial Aid work and where does it come from? A couple more sites to help in your research:

www.finaid.org offers an overview for applying for aid
www.fafsa.ed.gov application for financial aid
www.fastweb.com lists of scholarships available

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