Financial Aid FAQs

How can we tell if we are going to be eligible for need-based financial aid?

Use the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) calculator program available at sites like www.finaid.orgor The same exact formulas are used on these free sites to determine aid eligibility.

I make X dollars a year. Should I even bother applying for aid?

If you think there is any chance you could qualify for aid, you should apply. Even if you are only eligible for loans, they are low-interest loans. You of course will never know if you are eligible unless you apply.

Are the FAFSA and CSS forms difficult to fill out?

If you can fill out a tax form, you can handle these. You’ll need the same financial information.

Can we apply for financial aid online?

Absolutely! In fact, folks at both ETS and CSS/Profile strongly urge you to do so. The FAFSA form is available at and the CSS/Profile at

How can I find out about merit scholarships?

Both the websites mentioned in question one include links to helpful scholarship search engines. You should also check with individual schools as well as the College Counseling Office for additional information.

What is the difference between “Federal Methodology” and “Institutional Methodology”?

Methodology refers to process by which either the government or individual schools or institutions assess one’s need. Schools often assess or count additional items such as home equity.

If my parents are divorced or separated, what income sources will be considered?

This is a very tricky issue and unfortunately the answer varies for every situation, but it is not uncommon for both biological parents’ assets to be required and considered regardless of the particulars of the living arrangements.

If my child receives need-based aid, won’t a merit award just get subtracted from the need-based aid offer?

In some cases colleges do subtract the outside award from the whole package, thus reducing loans, the family contribution, as well as grants, while others subtract outside awards from loans and the family contribution only.

What if our family doesn’t qualify for need-based aid but isn’t prepared to pay the full cost of a private college?

Perhaps merit scholarships could help. Also state colleges with a lower price tag should be considered. You should also look into payment plans and options individual schools offer.

What happens if our family’s financial situation changes after we have submitted these forms?

You can always update the information you submitted. You should also prepare a letter explaining the changes and submit it directly to the schools.

Does it hurt my chances of admission to apply for aid on my application to college?

It depends. The means test will determine first if you qualify for need-based aid. From there, it’s a question of whether the college is need-blind, meaning that it will consider students for admission regardless of whether they need financial aid or not. If a college is need-aware (and most colleges are), a student’s financial need may indeed affect the admission decision. In most cases this applies to only a handful of students each year and only those students who are marginal admits.

Do we have to accept all parts of a financial aid award given to us?

No. It often happens that families decide they do not wish to accept some or all of their loans. This is fine, but you will of course have to come up with some other way to pay for this portion and it is very likely that the interest rate on the loans you receive in your package will be at the lowest interest rate possible.

Are there fee waivers available for the FAFSA or CSS Profile forms?

Yes. Following very specific guidelines on family income, both agencies do grant waivers. Please ask in the College Counseling Office if you think you may qualify.

Bullis School
10601 Falls Road Potomac MD 20854
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