Let’s Get Technical: Applying for Financial Aid at Vanderbilt
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.
- Submit the 2015-2016 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (also known as the FAFSA)
- Submit the College Scholarship Service Financial Aid Profile application (CSS Profile)
- Submit copies of your and your parents’ 2014 Federal Income Tax Returns to IDOC
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The financial aid terminology and process can seem overwhelming, but should you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask an expert!