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Paying For College: Financial Aid

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 need based financial aid, which includes grants and loans.

Many folks feel the financial aid form is invasive in that it basically wants to know your net worth. That is truly the only way to level the playing field so that aid can be doled out.

Then set up an appointment with the guidance counselor and see what recommendations they may have. Then you and your kid (they need to have skin in this game) begin to check out various the resources available. Some folks hire a college planner for help.

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 repaid, jobs so the kiddo can earn money and a variety of loans and tax breaks.

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

Next consider filing the CSS PROFILE Financial Aid Form, produced by the College Board. "CSS" stands for College Scholarship Service. This form is required by almost 200 colleges for determining non-federal financial aid, such as institutional scholarships, grants, and loans. There is a small 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.

Some colleges are 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 EFC, 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 – 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:  offers an overview for applying for aid application for financial aid lists of scholarships available American Student Assistance with offices in Massachusetts


You can hear Dee Lee's expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m. and 3:55 p.m.

Subscribe to Dee's Money Matters newsletter here.

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