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Navigating College Costs: What Every Parent Needs to Know About College Scholarship Service

What’s the difference between FAFSA and the College Scholarship Service (CSS)? If you have a student heading to college soon, you won’t want to miss this quick 4-minute episode of Coffee with Waymark. In it, Brendan delves into the additional factors reviewed by the 250 colleges that use CSS profiles to determine eligibility for institutional scholarships.

Topics Discussed:

  • College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile criteria 

  • Differences between federal financial aid and CSS

  • Having multiple students from one household in college


Hi and welcome to another edition of Coffee with Waymark. Today's episode is going to be a continuation on the financial planning topic that we had started the last time. If you remember we had talked about the student aid index and how that was actually calculated for federal financial aid. This week, we're going to talk a little bit about student, or not student, the CSS profile, which is pretty much what, as you see here up on the screen, about 250 colleges used to establish their institutional aid.

So obviously we have the federal financial aid that comes from the U. S. government, but then there's also potential aid that you can get directly from the school and they use different criteria to determine how much aid you actually can qualify for. And so you see here a difference between what are some of the things that are actually taken into account when calculating federal financial aid versus the school financial aid. So in terms of income and assets, you see that these two top few things here are all taken into account. However, the school aid, so not the federal financial aid, also takes into account certain things that the federal financial aid does not. So for instance, parental assets held in sibling names, retirement assets, home equity.

Those things are all not taken into account for the federal financial aid, but they are taken into account for institutional and the, what the actual college will offer to the people. Ultimately, one of the big differences between federal financial aid and the school aid is that federal financial aid is really only concerned with the students assets and the parents assets. The difference is that and a lot of times the school is also interested in anything that you're a beneficiary of so that or the student is the beneficiary of. So you see here education savings accounts in the student's name owned by grandparents or other parents. So the child, the student, is actually the beneficiary and that's taken into account at the school level.  A couple things on the right side here which are, which are the same are things like, you know, number of family members in the household, federal federal income and payroll taxes, so on and so forth.

But again, the divergence here in a lot of cases is actually beneficial when it comes to the school aid. So for instance, one of the big, big changes that just recently took place is that for federal financial aid purposes, the amount of aid that you're provided is not impacted by the number of kids that are actually in college. That was a big change and something that caused a lot of people a lot of frustration. However, for the schools are actually still taking that into account and could potentially give you more aid If you have more children in school so you see here, you know some of the differences between the two, between the federal financial aid and the two, Institutional aid and the aid that the colleges will give you so that's again pretty quick amendment, I shouldn't say amendment, but additional information on student financial aid.

Just as an FYI for anyone who is interested in our personal journey. My daughter did accept to go to the University of Rhode Island. She's very happy to go there and now I am right in the thick of this as well.

So thank you for tuning in and if you have any questions, as always, just reach out and hopefully we can help you out.  Take care. 

Brendan is the Managing Director for Waymark Wealth Management. He has extensive experience in comprehensive wealth management. His focus includes retirement planning, behavioral finance, investment portfolio construction, education funding, insurance & risk management, taxes, charitable giving, and estate planning. Brendan has an ability to take clients' complex visions and distill them down to simple action plans, helping them move from where they are today to where they want to be tomorrow.

Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC.

The LPL Financial Registered Representatives associated with this site may only discuss and/or transact securities business with residents in specific states which are listed on our website at

The opinions voiced in this video are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.


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