For more than two-thirds of the 2025 class applicants, applying to the University also meant applying for financial aid – filling out the Free Federal Student Aid Application and College Scholarship Research Profile.
Taken together, these two forms help the University’s Financial Aid Office determine how much a family should contribute to their child’s education and how much the University will cover. But according to the first seven years surveyed by The Herald, filling out forms, especially the CSS profile, can build a confusing pile of financial documents and force them to search for information that might not be readily available.
A number of students interviewed by The Herald said they rely on their families to fill out financial aid forms.
Jace Damon ’25, a freshman from Panama City, Fla., Noted that he might have been able to complete the process on his own, but it wouldn’t have gone “so perfectly” without his mother. and her sister, who had applied for financial assistance previously.
“I probably would have done something wrong” without them, he said.
Keelin Gaughan ’25, a freshman from McKinney, Texas, added that she needed her father’s help to complete her financial aid application.
“I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s really overwhelming, ”Gaughan said. But she said after completing the forms, she now has a much better understanding of her own family’s finances.
On the flip side, Sofia Barnett ’25, a first-generation college student from Frisco, TX, said she largely applied for financial aid on her own without the help of an adult. To learn how to fill out forms, she researched YouTube tutorials, watching other students go through the process and collect the relevant information.
“I was lucky to have managed to figure it out,” she said. “None of this made sense to me. Some of them weren’t even on my parents’ tax returns.
Asya Gipson ’25, a freshman from Anchorage, Alaska, said she also relies on the internet for help, watching YouTube videos and browsing college application forums.
The CSS profile has been criticized in recent years for creating an overwhelming burden on low-income students or applicants who cannot easily access both parents’ financial information. This month, Lafayette College announced that it will no longer require CSS profiles for its low-income applicants. The University of Chicago now offers an alternative financial aid spreadsheet in place of the CSS profile.
Mikael Obiomah ’25, a freshman from Taunton, Massachusetts, said he had also encountered issues with the CSS profile; Due to the complexity of providing the Financial Aid Office with sufficient information, he did not learn of his financial aid until well after admission.
“All of this information was necessary that my parents did not want to provide,” he said. “My mother did not understand what was required of her. It was difficult to get information from my father, who lives in another country.
Obiomah said his college counselor at his high school has been helpful in the process of applying for financial aid. He also got help from his classmates in the 2025 class at the University, who formed focus groups after their acceptance but before Obiomah received his last package of financial aid, explaining to him who he was. should contact the University.
Barnett also attested to difficulties filling out the CSS form: although she was not in contact with either of her parents, she still needed their tax information.
“It was more of a process than testing, to be completely honest,” Barnett said. “If you don’t have contact it makes it more difficult in a lot of ways.”
TyKerius Monford ’25, a freshman from Athens, Ga., Said the complexity of the process led him to believe applicants should start applying for financial aid as soon as possible and complete the FAFSA on ” day of its opening. . “
“Applying for financial aid can be much more complicated than applying for admission itself,” said Bailey DiOrio, admissions manager at the University. She added that she often encourages students who have questions about financial aid – before or after their application – to contact the University’s Financial Aid Office, the “real experts.”
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The office, she said, has worked to become more accessible to students, with answers to specific questions on its website and a system through which applicants can sign up for a niche to discuss their financial aid application with a member of the Financial Aid Office. .
James Walsh, another admissions officer at the university, said he can relate to students struggling with their requests for financial aid. When he applied to Rural University of Maine as the son of two teachers, he found himself lost trying to complete the CSS and FAFSA profile. In addition to contacting the Office of Financial Aid, he and DiOrio noted that applicants should use the calculators on the office’s website to roughly estimate what their family might actually have to pay.
“There is often sticker shock to see what (the price) is,” Walsh said. But calculators can provide a clearer picture, showing that students won’t have to pay the full price of tuition and fees. Applicants are often surprised at the amount of assistance they are entitled to after completing the calculator, DiOrio noted.
Another key element in helping students understand financial aid, the two admissions officers said, is explaining the meaning of meeting a complete demonstrated need – the process by which the University calculates what a family can reasonably do. contribute, and what grants and scholarships are needed to cover the rest of the attendance costs.
“I’m trying to be more specific,” Walsh said. Need to blind and meet a demonstrated need “are excellent terms, but I wouldn’t have known what that meant.”
Admissions and financial aid offices, according to Dean of Admissions Logan Powell and Dean of Financial Aid James Tilton, are also releasing messages and information that make the university’s affordability clear. for middle-income students in light of new investments in financial aid.
International financial assistance presents another challenge. While the University expects to transition to needless international admissions by the time the class of 2029 applies, international students are still operating in a need-aware process at this time.
Ayaka Ono ’25, a freshman from Tokyo, Japan, said she had never heard of Japanese students receiving financial aid, but applied anyway. Applying in a needs-aware environment was stressful, but it ended for Ono with an acceptance letter and financial assistance that was “way more” than she expected.
The University’s international financial aid budget currently stands at $ 9 million, out of the $ 153.7 million that the University spends on global financial aid.
After being accepted, Ono also had to get a report from her bank confirming that her family had enough funds to pay for her studies in order to get a student visa.
And Ono’s help doesn’t come exclusively from college – she also receives a scholarship from the Japanese government, which requires her to explain how she will contribute to Japanese society after graduating.
According to Monford, outside scholarships can have an impact, even if the university bears an ever-increasing share of fees and expenses. He said the external scholarships he received covered his travel, living expenses and decorating his dormitory.
“You need furniture for your dorm,” he said. “It’s also very important.