Paying for College

Financial Aid Shortfalls

It's mid-April and college decisions have been rendered. Those of you who have received good news from your “dream" school — Congratulations! For those of you who may have been disappointed by your dream school but received good news from other excellent colleges, congratulations to you, too. For those of you who may have to “settle" (many times a highly misleading word) for a so-called safety school … well … sometimes safeties can become the stuff of dream schools, once you go there and experience how wrong your original opinions about it may have been.

But (there always seems to be a but), sometimes there can even be a catch with getting into a dream school. The complications of financial aid shortfall can turn that dream school into a nightmare scenario. The key phrase is “financial aid shortfall." A quick review:

There are two basic kinds of financial aid: need based and merit. Thinking back across your college application process, you no doubt recall the labor needed to fill in all those financial aid forms — the FAFSA, the CSS Profile, and maybe even a college's own school-specific form. The purpose of those forms (the latter two being required by private colleges and universities) is to assess your family's ability to pay the cost of attendance.

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