Financial Aid 101: A Guide for Parents and Guardians

Here's how parents can help students throughout the financial aid process


*This article was initially published in November 2021 and has been updated. To keep up with the latest changes to any and all university policies, please visit

Your student has just submitted the Common Application and you’re wondering, what now? As a parent or guardian, we know you’re excited that your young person will embark on this next exciting phase of their life—but it can also be intimidating! Especially when thinking about some of the big questions around financial aid, such as “How much can we afford?” and, “How can I best support my student through the application process?”

Not to worry! This guide specifically for parents and guardians is here to help!

Step 1: Know the deadlines and apply, even if you aren’t sure if you will qualify

At NYU, the FAFSA, CSS profile, and TAP (for NY State residents) deadlines are very important! Newly admitted students who do not file on time will not be eligible for the majority of our institutional grants and scholarships. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be considered!

I can’t stress this next part enough: don’t wait until the last minute to file!  The application process is time-consuming. The last thing you want is to be stressed about whether you will finish it by the deadline. Remember, if your student has a non-custodial parent, that parent will also need to file their own CSS profile. The applications are now open, so there’s no better time to get started. Read our full list of financial aid deadlines and requirements.

Step 2: Help your student learn how to organize themselves and their time

Time management is a skill your student will need throughout college and beyond. Applying to college can be anxiety-provoking for some students, and helping them get organized will make your student (and you!) feel like you have things under control.  

Sit down and make a list of all the schools your student is applying to, and what financial aid applications are required for each. Remind your student that not every school will have the exact same requirements and deadlines, so it’s important that you map out all of that information in one place.    

Next, schedule a time to apply together and stick with the schedule!

Step 3: Be realistic about how much you can afford to contribute

Before applying to any college, do your research on the cost of attendance. How much are tuition and fees? How much will room and board cost? Make sure you know what your plan will be if your student does not qualify for as much financial aid as needed. Loans are usually an option for students who need them, but we do not encourage families to borrow more than they need or to rely solely on loans for a college education. Have these discussions ahead of the college admissions process. That way, once your student has received their offers of admission, they can compare the financial aid options and make the decision that will be best for them and your family.  

You can get an estimate of how much financial aid your student might qualify for at NYU by using our Net Price Calculator. 

Step 4: If you have questions, go straight to the source!

Misinformation leads to missed opportunities when it comes to applying for financial aid. We’ve heard from many parents who have relied on information they got from another parent or on an online message board, and missed important deadlines as a result. We are here to help you and can provide accurate, up-to-date information and resources!

If you have questions or concerns about financial aid, please utilize the resources available through the NYU Office of Financial Aid. We have a lot of great information and Frequently Asked Questions available on our website. Or, reach out to us directly on weekdays between 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 212-998-4444 or via email at [email protected]. Financial aid counselors are able to give accurate information that’s directly related to your situation.  

Now that you have reviewed these tips, I hope that you feel like you have a plan of action. Take a breath. It will all be worth it in the end when the applications are submitted (on time!). 

Supporting your student through the financial aid application process can feel overwhelming, but by following the steps above, you can feel confident that your student will be reviewed for the best possible financial aid package. Best of luck throughout this application process. You’ve got this!