Staying the Path
Understanding the Path to Receiving Financial Aid: the FAFSA and the PROFILE
The information for the specific determination of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is completely derived from your Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA (which cannot be submitted before January 1st but must be submitted before June of the calendar year prior to the first academic year; rule of thumb the sooner it is submitted after the January 1st starting date, the better). Every state and many campus assistance programs also require this document.
The FAFSA and PROFILE are essentially 1040 line item referenced financial statements. Both require information from completed tax forms for that calendar year. If you have them, use the numbers from these to complete the applications. If your tax forms aren't available, estimate using as much accurate data as available e.g. W2 forms etc. You can correct any errors when the tax forms are completed.
In addition to collecting income and asset information, each financial aid form also collects demographic data including family size, parent age, number of students in college and other related information. You are also invited to provide each school with information on any extenuating circumstances that affect your ability to support educational expenses.
Use the financial calculators, such as the excellent ones found on The College Board, and FinAid web-sites, and if the tally numbers cause you apprehension, remember the evaluation of extenuating circumstances is, in large part, subjective. Take advantage of this opportunity to provide this information by directly contacting the college financial aid offices of the schools being considered. Set the foundation for a positive working relationship and don't hesitate, others will not.