Financial Aid

Applying for Financial Aid FAQs

Learn how the process works for twins, which 529 plans to report, who should be the custodial parent, how to include special circumstances, and more.
Woman using tablet

Financial aid season has begun, which means students and parents are busy completing the FAFSA® and CSS Profile®, the two primary applications for financial aid. Though both forms include detailed tips and hints throughout, there's still plenty of questions that arise throughout the process. We recently received the questions below from families navigating the applications, and hope that sharing our answers can help many others.

Q: How does the financial aid application process work for twins?

A: You'll need to submit an application for both children, even if most of the information is the same. The FAFSA does provide some help by allowing you to copy a majority of your information into a second FAFSA after you've completed the first. Look for the prompt to do so on your first FAFSA confirmation page.

Q: Do I report the 529 college savings plan for every child on the financial aid applications?

A: No, you just need to report the value of the 529 college savings plans for the student applicant, and report that amount as an investment in the parent assets section.

Q: In the case of divorce, who should be the parent on your applications if you split everything 50/50 and have joint custody?

A: The financial aid applications direct families to include the parent on the applications that provides the most financial support. If this is even, the parent with the higher income should be on the applications.

Q: If a student is living with a non-parent, does the student report that person's information on the financial aid applications?

A: If the student is living with a legal guardian, the student would report no parent information on the FAFSA, including the legal guardian's, as the situation would warrant an independent status for the student, and the student would not need to report any parent information. On the CSS Profile, however, any student with a legal guardian would report the legal guardian's information in the parent sections. If the student is living with another adult, but that person is not the student's parent or legal guardian, the student will still need to report information for his/her parent(s) on the applications.

Q: How do we include special circumstances on the FAFSA?

A: Unlike the CSS Profile, there is no place on the FAFSA where a family can type in a note to communicate any special circumstances to the financial aid offices. Instead, families need to send any additional information they want to communicate in an email or letter to the financial aid office at each school to which the student is applying.

Q: If the parent and stepparent are separated, who do we list on the financial aid applications?

A: If the parent and stepparent are separated and living separately, the family should only list the parent's information on the FAFSA. On the CSS Profile, the family should list the name of the stepparent, but not include any financial information for that stepparent.

Q: Is worker's compensation a special circumstance?

A: Worker's compensation will increase your total income, but since it's a one-time occurrence, it's definitely something you could mention to the financial aid office. Many will exclude it from your income total, as it's not something that will likely repeat in the future. Financial aid offices want to award financial aid based on your regular income.

If you'd like more information about the financial aid process, we recommend you watching our on-demand webinars. Check out Understanding the FAFSA, the CSS Profile, and Financial Aid 101. And if you have additional questions, we're happy to answer them. Call us at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) or email us at