Getting mixed information re FAFSA/CSS profile - any suggestions?

Not sure if this is better asked in the admissions forum, but:

I am getting conflicting information from school counselors and from a variety of FA officers at the schools to which my child is applying.

After doing a few EFC calculators, I know for certain my family is not going to qualify for any need based aid this year, or next. After that, I’ll have two kids in college, in theory, and situation might be different.

School counselors have encouraged everyone to file a FAFSA regardless of anticipated need. Two aid officers from colleges said essentially the same (both of these schools are FAFSA only, and don’t take CSS profile at all). They basically implied that it will be easier to apply for aid in the future if we submit a FAFSA at the time of application.

BUT, for a few of the CSS profile schools, if I’m reading between the lines correctly, they’ve implied that submitting one could potentially impact admission chances.

My child has checked the box on common app stating “Does NOT plan to apply for need based financial aid.”

Here’s my question: If that box is checked, what does an admissions department actually do with that information? Meaning, would a need-aware (or any?) school’s admissions even see the FAFSA or CSS submission if my child didn’t indicate “plan to apply for aid?”

Should we NOT submit either FAFSA or CSS profile to any of the need-aware schools on the list?

Or, do they just look at the profile and see the EFC and categorize as full pay regardless of what boxes were checked or not?

Any thoughts?

1 Like

This is untrue for FAFSA. You can submit that any year if you want. There ARE some schools that will not offer any of their funds if FA was not applied for as a freshman.

Do you know if any of your schools are need aware?

Yes - there is one need-aware school that I believe states they don’t offer any FA if not applied for as a freshman, but it’s a CSS profile school.

And, yes - on the list are 4 need aware schools + 1 that is need aware for OOS, 3 FAFSA only schools, and 4 need blind.

It is very important to understand if you have to submit FA forms each year if you want to apply in future years. If I thought that we would get some need based aid for the last two years because you now have 2 in college, I would submit the forms and not worry about any impact on admissions.

So is there any potential negative impact to just submitting both forms, and leaving the box checked to indicate we’re NOT planning to apply for FA? If that box is checked, does the FAFSA or CSS profile info just never make its way anywhere to an admissions dept?

Or, do they look at them and see the EFC being above the cost of attendance and student becomes labeled full-pay that way somehow? Or, do they say why did this family submit FA forms if they aren’t asking for need-based aid and don’t qualify for any anyway?

Am I overthinking all of it?

A few colleges require FAFSA if applying for or awarded merit scholarships*. Not sure if any have similar requirement for CSS Profile.

*A college that offers full ride merit scholarships may want students to get any Pell grant that they are eligible for, so that the college need only give $(full ride - Pell grant) instead of $(full ride).

None of the schools applied/applying to require FAFSA or CSS profile for merit consideration (I contacted all to ask, which is what prompted my questions because each school responded sort of differently in terms of either encouraging or discouraging us to submit the forms).

@homerdog In your experience, weren’t some schools (which dept?) confused when you submitted FAFSA but checked that your S was not applying for FA? Do you think it had any impact on the admissions decision?

Can you help OP out?

First of all, go through the Net Price Calculators for the schools on your kid’s list. How close are you to getting aid? How close if you have 2 in college?

Then look up the colleges and see if any are need aware. Call up the financial aid offices of those schools and talk to the financial aid director or assistant Director and ask about the implications of filing not financial aid forms on when you do not qualify for it right now, but might in the future. Schools differ on how they handle this. Some do not consider you as a “need” student if you don’t qualify for aid though you applied, some put you in the “need” category just because you did apply. So if you do not be excluded from the possibility of future aid, you may have to apply freshman year and follow some other procedures. You have to get the schools’ policies on this from each school.

You can file FAFSA and not send it to any school. We did this every year and that allowed us to take out Direct (student) and PLUS (parent) loans quickly if needed since the FAFSA was completed. Also if a scholarship or program needed a FAFSa, again , it was right on hand.


At a need aware school, the admissions office will know the level of your financial need…that’s it. This MIGHT be a factor in admissions…but in your case, I can’t see how.

Your level of financial need is $0. You won’t need any money from the colleges.

As noted, you can submit a FAFSA after admissions are complete if you want to take out the Direct Loan. That can be done any time during the academic year as long as it’s processed before the school year ends.

If you are prepared to pay the full cost of attendance, you never have to file a FAFSA or Profile.

For U.S. residents, there are a handful of colleges, however, that do have restrictions on applying for need based aid in subsequent years. But just a handful. This would not include the federally funded Direct Loan which your student can get at any time if a FAFSA is completed for that academic year.

If you don’t plan to apply for aid and don’t need it…just check NO and forget about it.

Thank you!

Looking at a couple NPCs, for one in college, we’re not close to aid. Using same numbers, for two, we would qualify for about $20k. I guess at that point then we would be applying for both kids separately?

It sounds like it might be best to NOT submit them to any of the need aware schools (about half the list), except if there is a school that specifically states no aid for four years unless you applied as freshman?

But thank you for the advice to call and ask directly what the implications of filing (or not) are in this circumstance. Much appreciated!

I know folks in your situation. FAFSA EFC of , say $100k, means no financial aid. But say in two years , with two in college, the EFC would be about $50k apiece which means if you are looking at private schools for both , you can be eligible for up to $30k of aid apiece , given school costs that are ranging up into the $80k point.

Very few schools meet full need based on FAFSA EFC, but that’s certainly can open doors to federal work study funds, subsidized direct student loans and possibly state funds depending upon your state.

Many private schools ask for CSS PROFILE and the institutional EFC is by their formulas, often splitting the cost so that it’s 60% of that EFC for each kid instead of 50% as FAFSA would give.

This is the situation where it can hurt, and you can lose out, if it’s “too bad, so sad”, if you did not apply for financial aid from the first year your first student’s college. Yes, there are such schools. You apply and are accepted as full pay, so you remain for the rest of your time there, barring certain catastrophic events.

Each school had its own policies on how they distribute their own funds for financial aid so, one has to get the particulars on their policies.

IMO, if a school has such a policy, then apply for financial aid. Usually, usually, most of the time, it’s not going to make that much of a difference in admissions. It can, yes. But need aware schools usually admit a large portion of their students on a need blind basis and then start looking at what money they have left when the coffers start getting bare. Enrollment management then means one has to make sure the money is spread out as effectively as possible.

In your situation, with no current need, there is not going to be that issue most of the time. Where I see an issue is when schools simply split apps between those applying for need and those not. I was surprised there are such schools , but there are.

Things change so much and so quickly that it’s best to get the current info straight from the horses’ mouths, which are the Fin Aid Directors.

Yes, this is our situation, more or less.

And, to complicate further, kid’s #1 choice is, I believe, one of those need aware schools that says FA is set for all four years barring “catastrophic circumstances.”

Thank you all for so much thoughtful help here!

Student loans right now have very low interest rates (and currently are interest free for all through 12/31). Many people file the FAFSA just to get the loans, or at least have that option.

One of my daughters had a pretty good FA/scholarship package but did pay her rent herself. The loan was a nice cushion to have. When she graduated she had borrowed $15k and had $10k still in her bank account. Then it became a nice cushion for paying bills before her salary started. She moved, she bought a car, she bought work clothes. She just asked me today if she should pay off the whole thing. I told her no because there is still the possibility that there will be some student debt forgiveness in the next stimulus bill (or if Biden wins he’s promised it in his first budget), and currently there is no interest accruing. It probably won’t happen, but no cost right now to waiting it out.