Financial Aid

Do You Have These Financial Aid Questions?

Questions include how to submit the FAFSA to more than 20 schools, where to list retirement accounts, and when the deadline to use IDOC is.
A student and parent working on financial aid

Since the FAFSA® and CSS ProfileTM became available, we've been fielding questions from parents, students, and counselors on different aspects of the financial aid applications. You can find a comprehensive review of financial aid within our webpage, Financial Aid Made Simple, but your family's household situation or recent changes in income might raise questions about how to proceed in the process. We've compiled below some of the most frequently asked questions we've received recently. Read them through in case any of these situations apply to your own family.

Q: I am self-employed, and my year-to-year income varies (sometimes greatly). Should I submit more recent income information to schools?

A: The FAFSA and CSS Profile ask questions about a certain year's income, and that's the income the financial aid offices will use to determine your eligibility for financial aid. If your more recent income varies significantly (often the case for business owners, or those who recently lost their job), it's a good idea to let the financial aid offices know. They don't have to, but may choose to use your more recent income when evaluating your family for financial aid. Submit a letter and relevant documentation (such as your most recent tax return or most recent pay stub) to each financial aid office.

Q: Once I apply, can I delete a group of schools from my list on the FAFSA? My daughter is applying to more than 20 schools.

A: Yes, once you've submitted your FAFSA, wait until the student receives your FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS) via email, which indicates your FAFSA has been delivered to the schools on your list. You can then log back into the FAFSA, delete your schools, add others, and submit the FAFSA again to those additional schools.

Q: Do I report my retirement accounts on the financial aid applications?

A: The FAFSA specifically requests that you not report the value of any official retirement accounts on the application. The CSS Profile does ask that you report the value of all retirement accounts, though most schools only eyeball that figure, and don't actually use it in the calculation to determine your financial aid eligibility.

Q: Can I fill out and submit the FAFSA if my student has not yet sent an application to the school?

A: Yes. You can send financial aid applications to any school at any time. Once the school receives your admissions application, they'll search their pool of FAFSAs (and other financial aid applications) to find yours, and then proceed with the financial aid review.

Q: I am divorced, and my wife is the parent completing the FAFSA. Where do we list the value of the 529 account I started for my son?

A: In the case of divorce or separation, the FAFSA only asks for income and asset information from the parent that appears on the FAFSA and that parent's current spouse. As the other parent, you won't report any of your information on the FAFSA. You may need to submit a CSS Profile to schools that require the CSS Profile. You'll list all of your income and asset information (including the value of your 529 accounts) on that CSS Profile. 

Q: Do both the student and parent need an FSA ID?

A: Yes, in order to sign the FAFSA, both the student and parent will need an FSA ID. You can learn more about the FSA ID in our blog post here.

Q: What's the deadline to use IDOC? Is it the same as the PROFILE?

Each school will let you know their IDOC deadline (check your CSS Profile status page, or the school's website). Many have an IDOC deadline that occurs after the CSS Profile is due. Note that there's a lag time of a few days from the time you submit your CSS Profile to when IDOC will be available for your use. You can learn more about IDOC here.

If you have additional questions about the financial aid process, we would love to provide answers. Call us at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) or email us at We have financial aid experts ready to offer you guidance and answer your questions.