Early Decision Financial Aid

Senior Students are beginning to create the lists of colleges they want to attend. During this process high school students have the added complexity of whether to do early action, early decision or regular admission.  This article will discuss early decision financial aid.  It will explain how the timing of this decision affects your financial aid considerations and the application process.

The decision to apply early decision or regular decision is complicated.  With an early decision application the student will apply to a college early and receive a decision typically by December of their senior year.  If accepted under the early decision application, the student will enter into a binding agreement with that college to enroll.   Early decision applications are usually submitted by early November while regular admission applications are due normally by January 1.  It is important to know the various deadlines that each college has under their application process.  This would include other items such as financial aid, high school transcripts and teacher reference to name a few.

Some colleges also have the early action program in their admission process.  The timing and process is similar to the early decision application yet the decision is not binding.  Even after an admission letter is offered, the student can continue to apply to other colleges.   The final decision does not need to be made until all of the admission letters have been received.

Most colleges that offer early decision and early action require a preliminary financial aid form.  The most common is the CSS Profile.  This financial aid process is more complex than the Federal Methodology or FAFSA.  If your child is going to apply in either of these early admission programs it is important that they contact the Financial Aid office in early September to make sure they know about the exact process and requirements.   The CSS Profile is available in October and normally needs to be submitted by mid- November for early decision applications.

If you are depending on need based financial aid to make the early decision, creating an accurate estimated CSS profile is critical.  With your early decision acceptance letter, the student will receive a preliminary financial aid award.  This financial award is the only way to decline the early acceptance.  It can be negotiated but it can also change.  The early acceptance financial award is only an estimate and is not finalized until the FAFSA form is verified.

With this in mind, understanding your financial position is important.  You can use each school’s net price calculator to get a good estimate.  The quality of these calculators varies greatly by school.  We have a free EFC Calculator that will give you a very good estimate of both the Federal method (FAFSA) and the CSS profile.  The colleges that use the CSS profile weigh each financial aspect differently unlike the FAFSA process.  The FAFSA calculation is the same for all schools.

The other risk you have with early decision is the ability to compare financial awards.  Since you will not be applying to other schools, you will not be able to compare net cost of other colleges.  You college decision should have three major parts: academics, environment and financial.

By understanding the various methods of applying for financial aid, the student and family can make a better decision.  Creating a good financial estimate will minimize the risk of your initial financial award changing and your decision being a good one.

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