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Education Blog


October 1st is when U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizen students can apply for need-based financial aid by completing and submitting the FAFSA and CSS Profile.


● If your child is applying for need-based aid, all institutions require submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For current high school seniors or transfer students expecting to attend college next year, the 2022-2023 FAFSA can be accessed beginning October 1 here.

● About 170 colleges and universities also require submission of the CSS Profile for need-based aid consideration. That list can be found here, but Williams Educational suggests verifying with the institution itself.

● The CSS Profile can be accessed here beginning October 1.

● It is necessary to check each college’s website or financial aid office to verify the deadline. Students will NOT want to miss these deadlines as it will jeopardize your child’s eligibility for financial aid.

● For those planning to apply during the early decision or early action rounds, these financial aid deadlines are often November 1 or 15. A few may even be earlier. Know your deadlines.

● These forms will ask detailed questions about your 2020 federal tax returns. Be sure your returns have been submitted and processed before beginning these forms.

Tips on how to begin the FAFSA properly:

● The FAFSA belongs to the student, although many parents complete this form on their child’s behalf. To begin the FAFSA, the student must first create their Federal Student Aid identification number (FSAID). This ID is an electronic fingerprint associated with one person and one email address. Any person who needs to access a student’s FAFSA will require their own. Create your FSA ID here.

● Parents will need to cosign the FAFSA for their minor children and will therefore need to create their own FSA ID as well.

● When beginning the FAFSA, it is usually best to select the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to populate many of the answer fields automatically. Unfortunately, choosing the DRT will shield the populated data from the filer’s view, though colleges will see these numbers. Not selecting the DRT and entering numbers manually will often trigger a request from the financial aid office for a signed copy of the federal tax returns. For those concerned about using the DRT, providing tax returns is an acceptable alternative.

WHO SHOULD FILE THE FAFSA (and CSS Profile when required):

● Anyone wanting to receive need-based aid who believes they may qualify.

● Anyone who thinks they may need financial aid at any point during their child’s undergraduate career. Many colleges will not consider a later request for institutional assistance from a student who did not apply for financial aid as an incoming freshman, or they may impose a full year waiting period.

Determining need eligibility is complex and often best answered by the individual university setting, but here is a guideline to think about when making your decision:

● Most college applications now ask the student, “Do you intend to pursue need-based financial aid?” If you do, then this box must be checked “Yes.” If you don’t, then select “No.”

● If your child checks “No” but you go ahead and file the FAFSA before the institution’s financial aid application deadline, one of three things will happen over which you have no control:

→ The college contacts you to clarify whether or not you’re applying for need-based aid.

→ The college doesn’t get you, assumes you are applying for need-based aid, and processes your FAFSA (and CSS Profile).

→ The college assumes you are not applying for need-based aid and ignores your request for institutional need-based aid.

● If your child checks “Yes” and you do not send the FAFSA to that college, the college application may be considered incomplete. Be sure to contact the college to resolve this discrepancy.

IMPORTANT: Make sure the college application accurately reflects your financial aid intentions.

● A handful of colleges request submission of the FAFSA, CSS Profile, or both if your child seeks non-need-based merit aid from that institution. In addition, there are specific merit scholarships at some institutions that request one or both of these forms, while other scholarships do not. Parents and students should verify each institution’s merit aid policy by visiting their website or contacting the admission office directly.

● Finally, you will need to file the FAFSA to initiate the process for those who have decided not to apply for need-based financial aid but want to take advantage of low-interest unsubsidized federal student loans.


  1. When in doubt, call the institution directly!

  2. Do not submit the FAFSA before the institutions’ deadlines.

  3. If you are listing multiple schools on the FAFSA, list them in alphabetical order.

Data for this email has been gathered by various resources including CSS Profile, College Board, FAFSA, and Big J Educational Consulting.

Lastly, for a GREAT webinar on October 7th on the steps to complete the FAFSA, click here to register.

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