Is the task of funding your college-bound child stressing you out? Our education expert, Bruce Hammond, guides you through the maze of federal funding, and shows you how to receive financial help.
All across the country, parents of high school seniors are finding themselves face to face with one of parenthood's most stressful rites of passage -- applying for college financial aid. Filling out forms is never fun, especially when they deal with family finances, but the aid ordeal is particularly intimidating because the stakes are so high. More often than not, confusion reigns.
Part of the problem is that the aid process serves two masters. The federal government is the ultimate source of most aid delivered through the colleges, and the formula governing its distribution is based on data collected by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). But some colleges -- mostly expensive, private ones -- also give away large chunks of their own money as part of aid packages and are not satisfied with the federal formula for appropriating these institutional funds. Such colleges require supplemental information via the College Board's Financial Aid Profile form and/or a separate form of their own making.
The Government's Formula
No matter which college your son or daughter plans to attend, a rendezvous with the FAFSA is necessary to get need-based aid. Paper copies are available in college financial aid and high school guidance offices. For faster filing, you can complete and submit the FAFSA online at