In growing up First-Gen, I have had to grow up fast, needing to assume adult responsibilities at an earlier age than other teens. All of us First-Gens know this struggle. I have completed documents and read legalese regarding my parents’ mortgage and banking statements. I’ve even had to write statements for my Mamá when she needed to report an employee conflict or a case of theft at work.
I had a very similar feeling when I completed the FAFSA and CSS Profile. The questions on these documents asked me about tax returns, forms I knew nothing about. This made no sense to me; I didn’t even file taxes, yet I was supposed to be an expert at these forms. I knew my parents went to Rosario to file their taxes, but could they help me to understand what “a KOGH fund” was? What was an “itemized deduction” even supposed to be? These IRS technical terms frustrated me. I had never seen them before, and all of a sudden I had to complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile as if I knew what I doing? Psshhh, really?
Yet, if I wanted financial aid, I had to grin and bear it like the adult I need to be. The adult I’ve always had to be. It’s so hard to be required to know so much so soon. I’ve had to trust myself, even when I didn’t know what to do.
If the technical words were triggering, the questions were aggravating. The questions were telling of the authors who wrote the FAFSA and CSS Profile. They bespoke of wealth and the privilege that comes with legacy. That people inherit from their parents and grandparents. The questions imagined that a “normal” college student has a trust fund or whose parents’ companies will sponsor them for college. It awes me that there are adolescents who have trust funds! How does someone have so much money and access to more? This concentration of wealth blows my mind.
I had to grin and bear it like the adult I need to be. The adult I’ve always had to be. It’s so hard to be required to know so much so soon. I’ve had to trust myself, even when I didn’t know what to do.
In order to remain neutral, I understand that the two financial aid forms ask some different questions. I understand that the questions are in order to calculate a precise financial picture for every student who applies. The questions are the same for every student completing these forms, regardless of “adjusted gross income” (that’s another IRS term). So, for a question on owned real estate question, I answered, “No I don’t own real estate.”
I want to leave this a positive note. If you haven’t already, please submit your FAFSA and, if necessary, your CSS Profile. Not all schools take the CSS Profile, so make sure you know if your prospective colleges do require the CSS Profile by visiting https://profile.collegeboard.org/profile/ppi/participatingInstitutions.aspx
- FAFSA link: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa
- CSS Profile Link (only if your colleges and universities need it): https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org/
Please, please, please ask a guidance counselor or a trusted adult for help on these financial aid forms. Don’t do it alone! If you have any questions, the FAFSA has helpful info on almost every question. This info tells you where to look on the 1040 or W-2 forms for the value you seek. You’re likely going to need only your parents’/legal guardians 1040 (or 1040 EZ) and W-2 forms. But read the full list from FAFSA’s site: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/help/info-needed
Another note: if someone demands money to help you with your financial aid documents, stay away! There are free resources available that can answer your questions. And if anything else, there are the amazing students on the ImFirst blog site. We’ve all been through the FAFSA and CSS Profile before. If you have a question about these forms, send me an email! I can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best. You are powerful,