College costs continue to escalate and more and more families are looking toward financial aid as a means to defray college expenses. Each year millions or even billions of dollars in financial aid are available. The only way to determine if you are eligible is if you apply. Families apply for financial aid using the FAFSA (Free application for student aid. The form will be available after January 1st of your son or daughter’s senior year. Some schools will also ask for the CSS Profile as well as the FAFSA to determine aid. In the fall, the guidance department will host a financial aid night to help with the process.FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): www.FAFSA.ed.govCSS PROFILE: www.profileonline.collegeboard.comHow to fill out FAFSA: FAFSA How-To LinkCollege costs are usually met through a combination of family contribution and need-based aid which is compromised of a grant and “self-help” component (a combination of a low-interest loan and a job during school year). Who determines family contribution? Financial aid experts have come up with a “uniform methodology” to analyze family resources. Given specific information on income, assets, debts, etc., the agencies involved determine the amount parents can be expected to pay. This figure will vary slightly from school to school based on the cost of college, additional information received and other factors. Outside scholarship or various forms of loan and funding will make up the remainder of a fully funded “financial aid package.”Cost of College-Family Contribution= Demonstrated NeedIn contrast to financial aid, scholarships are not based on need but are awards in recognition of outstanding talent. These scholarships are competitive and sometimes difficult to obtain. Areas such as leadership, academics, music, art, and athletics are frequently among those singled out for scholarship awards.