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Let’s Get Technical: Applying for Financial Aid at Vanderbilt

Posted by on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 in General Information, I've been admitted - now what?, Preparing for College, Scholarships and Financial Aid, Uncategorized.

With your admissions application submitted, its receipt confirmed, and your MyAppVU account established, let’s switch gears for a minute to talk about affordability. Opportunity Vanderbilt reflects our belief that a world-renowned education should be available to all qualified students regardless of their economic circumstances. In other words, a college education is an investment to which all qualified students should have access. Do not let any university’s sticker price lead you astray. Consider applying for financial aid so that, should you be offered admission in April, you – the student – and your family have all the information you need to make an educated decision about which college to call home for the next four years.

To complete the need-based financial aid application process, follow these steps, per Vanderbilt’s Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships.

You may be asking, why are there two applications required for financial aid? The short answer is that my colleagues in The Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships are looking for your family’s eligibility for both Vanderbilt-specific need-based aid as well as federal eligibility for funds that are available to U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens. We know financial aid can be a sensitive subject for many families, but I always err on the side of caution:  if our total of cost of attendance appears daunting for you and your family, consider submitting the required applications for financial aid. In the current academic year, over 60% of enrolled undergraduates at Vanderbilt received some type of financial assistance from one or more sources.

Here are my tips in applying for financial aid that you might consider sharing with your family:

  1. Pay close attention to deadlines. At Vanderbilt, we have priority deadlines which imply that you should try to meet our financial aid application deadlines to the best of your ability, but applying later does not necessarily mean you will qualify for fewer financial aid dollars. This may not be the same philosophy at every school.
  2. Complete your taxes early. April 15 is National Tax Day in the United States. Your family might be used to filing taxes around the deadline, but if you are the first child going to college in your family, your family will need to get used to completing their federal tax returns as soon as they have all their paperwork in order. Both the FAFSA and CSS Profile ask for information from your federal tax forms, and the more accurate your numbers on the financial aid applications, the more accurate your financial aid award letter will be. It is understood that families may have to use estimated numbers on the applications. If you are offered admission in April, please note that your financial aid award is tentative until filed copies of your 2014 federal tax returns are reviewed by The Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships.
  3. Submit tax returns and requested additional information. If you are accepted for admission to Vanderbilt and submitted applications for need-based financial aid, you (the applicant) will receive an email with instructions regarding how to submit 2014 federal tax returns to the IDOC service. This will occur after your notification of admission. The Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships will notify you if additional information is needed to verify information reported on the financial aid applications.
  4. Use our Net Price Calculator. When I used to work with families as a financial aid counselor years ago, a Net Price Calculator was just a dream. In order to talk about available financial resources and what an estimated family contribution meant, it would be difficult to discuss specifics. With the Net Price Calculator, your family can now learn about your need-based financial aid eligibility to assist in paying the costs of attendance. I do suggest reading through the introduction to our Net Price Calculator very carefully and using the question arrows that we have for each question on the Calculator. It may appear intuitive, but the estimated family contribution figure your family sees is only as good as the numbers you put in. For example, there is a question regarding “adjustments to income” which many families will read as adjusted gross income (AGI).

Remember: adjustments to income ≠ adjusted gross income (AGI)

I have heard from some Vanderbilt applicants with questions regarding financial aid applications (including merit-aid applications). Here are some FAQs that may be helpful:

What is Vanderbilt’s financial aid deadline?

For Early Decision II applicants, the priority deadline for the CSS Profile was January 5. ED II applicants should work to complete their FAFSA applications by the February 2nd priority deadline. Regular Decision applicants should complete both the FAFSA and CSS Profile by the February 2nd priority deadline.

I know the FAFSA is a free application, but are there fee-waivers for the CSS Profile?

The CSS/Financial Aid Profile automatically considers users for fee waivers based on the information provided in the application. Vanderbilt does not offer fee-waiver codes for the CSS/Financial Aid Profile.

Please review the FAQs for the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships to help answer your questions.

If you need to speak with a colleague in the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, contact them by phone at 1-800-288-0204 or by email at The financial aid terminology and process can seem overwhelming, but should you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask an expert!

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  • Anonymous

    March 24th, 2015

    “but are their fee-waivers”

    is a typo. Should be corrected to *there fee waivers.

  • Jay Watson

    March 24th, 2015

    Good catch – we’ve updated that!

  • Chuck

    September 23rd, 2016

    My son is interested in applying for ED. As a parent, I am concerned about paying for VU. At the risk of sounding dumb, ignorant, or both, I am trying to figure it all out. I have done the Net Price Calculator. Frankly, I can’t come out of pocket on a monthly basis to cover the EFC. How does the overall financial package work to cover the cost of school, including the need based portion and the EFC portion? How do students cover the EFC if the family really can’t pay that amount out of monthly or annual income?

  • Jay Watson

    September 30th, 2016

    Hi Chuck, thanks for your question. And my apologies for the late reply – your comment got caught in our moderation filter. I’m glad to hear your son is interested in Vanderbilt, and I hope I can answer your questions or point you in the right direction. The Net Price Calculator is a great place to start, so I am glad to hear you have already completed it. As you will have seen, the NPC estimates the family’s Expected Financial Contribution in the same way the Financial Aid office will for students that apply for aid. Once the EFC is determined for an applicant, the financial aid officer calculates the difference between the cost of attendance and the EFC to determine financial need. VU will cover the family need with grants and a small work contribution, instead of loans.

    If the EFC isn’t something you are comfortable with, you have some options. One is merit-scholarships. VU awards a limited number of merit-scholarships that cover full tuition. (You won’t find out the results of merit-scholarship applications until spring, so if you are counting on them to afford VU, then ED may not be appropriate.) Second, while VU financial aid does non include loans, families are able to use loans to finance the EFC.

    Our Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships can give you more information about financial aid and scholarships – they’re there to help and will gladly explain in more detail. You can check out their site and find their contact information at Thanks again for your question!

  • Chuck

    October 19th, 2016

    Are all outside scholarships, even ones considered to be merit-based, counted against the need or can the student apply any non-VU awarded merit scholarships againt the EFC?

  • Jay Watson

    October 19th, 2016

    Thank you for your question, Chuck. Any outside scholarships, including merit awards, are taken into account as a part of your total need-based aid package and cannot count as a part of, or as a replacement for, your EFC. If you have more questions about financial aid, feel free to reach out to the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships at