The addition: How does the application for financial aid work?

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For more than two thirds of the applicants for the 2025 class, applying to the university also meant applying for a study grant – filling out the free application for federal study grant and the profile of the university scholarship search.

Taken together, these two forms help the university’s financial aid office determine how much a family should contribute to their child’s education and how much the university will pay. But according to seven first graders interviewed by The Herald, filling out the forms, especially the CSS profile, can lead to a confusing pile of financial documents, forcing them to hunt for information that may not be easily accessible.

A number of students interviewed by The Herald said they relied on their families to complete their grant forms.

Jace Damon ’25, a first grader from Panama City, Florida, noted that he might have completed the process on his own, but that it would not have been “flawless” without his mother and sister, who had previously applied for financial assistance.

“Without her, I would have probably done something wrong,” he said.

Keelin Gaughan ’25, a first grader from McKinney, Texas, added that she needed her father’s help to complete her application for financial assistance.

“I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s definitely overwhelming, ”said Gaughan. But she said that after completing the forms, she now has a much better understanding of her own family’s finances.

On the flip side, Sofia Barnett ’25, a first-generation college student from Frisco, Texas, said she applied for financial aid largely on her own without the help of an adult. To learn how to fill out the forms, she watched YouTube tutorials and watched other students go through the process and gather the relevant information.

“I was lucky that I managed to find out,” she said. “None of this made sense to me. Some of it wasn’t even on my parents’ tax return. “

Asya Gipson ’25, a first grader from Anchorage, Alaska, said she also relied on the internet for help, watched YouTube videos, and scoured college application forums.

The CSS Profile has been criticized in recent years for being an overwhelming burden on low-income students or applicants who cannot easily access both parents’ financial information. This month Lafayette College announced that it will no longer require CSS Profiles for its lower-income applicants. The University of Chicago is now offering an alternate grant worksheet in place of the CSS Profile.

Mikael Obiomah ’25, a first grader from Taunton, Mass., Said he also had problems with the CSS profile; Due to the complexity of providing sufficient information from the Financial Aid Office, he did not find out about his grant until long after he was approved.

“All of this information was needed that my parents did not want to provide,” he said. “My mother didn’t understand what was being asked of her. It was difficult to get information from my father who lives in another country. “

Obiomah said his college advisor at his high school was helpful in applying for financial assistance. He also got help from his fellow students in the University’s Class of 2025, who, after they were accepted, but before Obiomah received his final financial aid package, formed group chats and told him who to contact at the university.

Barnett also attested difficulties filling out the CSS form: Although she had no contact with one of her parents, she still needed their tax information.

“It was more of a process than the essays, to be completely honest,” said Barnett. “When you are out of contact it becomes more difficult in many ways.”

TyKerius Monford ’25, a first grader from Athens, Georgia, said the complexity of the process led him to believe that applicants should start their financial assistance requests as soon as possible and fill out the FAFSA on “opening day.” “

“Applying for financial assistance can be a lot more complicated than actually applying for admission,” said Bailey DiOrio, the university’s admissions officer. She added that she often encourages students to contact the university’s grant bureau, the “real experts,” with questions about grants – before or after they apply.

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The office, she said, has been working to become more accessible to students, with answers to specific questions on its website and a system through which applicants can sign up for a slot to submit their application for financial assistance with a member of the Office of Discuss Financial Aid.

Another university admissions officer, James Walsh, said he could relate to students struggling with their financial assistance requests. When he applied for college in rural Maine as the son of two teachers, he lost all attempts to complete the CSS profile and FAFSA. In addition to contacting the Financial Aid Office, he and DiOrio noted that applicants should use the calculators on the Office’s website to estimate roughly what their families will actually be paying.

“There is often a sticker shock to seeing what the (price) is,” said Walsh. But the calculators can provide a clearer picture and show that students don’t have to pay full price for tuition and fees. Applicants are often surprised at how much aid they can get after completing the calculator, noted DiOrio.

Another important element to helping students understand financial aid, both admissions officers said, is explaining the importance of meeting full proven needs – the process by which the university calculates what a family can reasonably contribute and what grants and grants Scholarships required are the remainder of the attendance costs.

“I’m trying to be more specific,” said Walsh. Need blindness and need satisfaction “are great terms, but I wouldn’t have known what that meant”.

The admissions and financial aid agencies, according to Dean of Admission Logan Powell and Dean of Financial Aid James Tilton, are also in the process of posting news and information that will make the university affordable for middle-income students in the face of new investments in financial aid.

International financial aid poses a further challenge. While the university expects to switch to needs-blind international admissions by the application of the year 2029, international students are still working in a needs-conscious process for the time being.

Ayaka Ono ’25, a first grader from Tokyo, Japan, said she had never heard of Japanese students receiving financial aid, but she applied anyway. Applying in a needs-conscious environment turned out to be stressful, but for Ono it ended with acceptance and a sponsorship award that was “much more” than she had expected.

The university’s international grant budget is currently $ 9 million, out of the $ 153.7 million the university spends on financial aid.

Upon admission, Ono also had to get a report from her bank confirming that her family had sufficient funds to fund their schooling in order to obtain a student visa.

And Ono’s help doesn’t just come from the university: she also receives a grant from the Japanese government that requires her to explain how she will get involved in Japanese society after graduation.

External scholarships can be effective even if the university pays an ever-increasing share of fees and expenses, according to Monford. He said the outside scholarships he received covered his travel, living expenses, and dormitory decorations.

“You need furniture for your dormitory,” he said. “It’s also very important.”


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