The college planning process is complex and stressful enough. Do they have to make it even more stressful by being confusing? FAFSA, TCOA, CSS, SAR, EFC- so many letters and acronyms. I mean what the heck do they all mean? After hours of research and learning, the acronyms are not so bad. The hard part then is to understand how each applies to your situation. You see, college planning is different than college saving. Saving for college is just putting money away (also not so easy I realize). Planning means picking the right colleges for the college list, navigating the in-depth admission process at each school, figuring out which school will give the most money and therefore lower your out of pocket expenses, figure out what paperwork is needed and how to do it, etc. The planning aspect requires that you understand these acronyms.
It’s a short post and I don’t want to bore you so let me at define a couple of them to get you started. TCOA is the total cost of attendance at a college. Do not let them fool you by quoting the “tuition” cost. The TCOA is the tuition, room, board, books, and extra fees that can run north of $5000 per year! We have discussed FAFSA in the past, so let me define CSS (College Scholarship Service). CSS Profile is essentially the FAFSA on steroids and is required to receive financial aid from many private and a few public schools. It asks many more questions than the FAFSA and has a fee required to submit and apply for financial aid. My best advice for now? Learn what all of the college related acronyms are, on your way to a successful college planning process.
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