Financial Aid

Excelsior Scholarship

Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature enacted the Excelsior Scholarship program, which is administered by the Higher Education Services Corporation. Below is information provided by the Governor’s office about the program’s application, which is now available:

The Excelsior Scholarship makes New York State public universities tuition-free for families making up to $125,000 per year once fully phased in. The scholarship is available to students attending a SUNY or CUNY school starting this fall whose families make up to $100,000. It will extend to families making up to $125,000 annually by 2019.

More than 940,000 middle-class families across New York State will be eligible for the Scholarship, and the requirements are simple. In order to apply, students must:

The application is open until July 21.

You will be asked to upload your financial information. If you have any issues, the contact information is:

Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), NYS Grants and Scholarships

1-888-NYSHESC (1-888-697-4372) toll free or 1-518-473-1574 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. If you have an account number, please have it ready.

Reach HESC electronically at Please be prepared to include the student’s name, date of birth, and the last four digits of his or her social security number.


What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that ALL schools require. The federal government uses it to determine your eligibility for federal aid, which includes grants, scholarships, work-study and loans. We STRONGLY recommend filling the FAFSA out online as it is much faster and easier to catch mistakes.

  • Complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 (this is the soonest it is available). Early submission maximizes your chances of receiving financial aid. DO NOT WAIT!
  • Submit the FAFSA even if you don’t think you qualify for aid. Sometimes being rejected for federal aid is a prerequisite for receiving private awards.
  • Contact your prospective college’s financial aid office for additional information. Your school may require forms in addition to the FAFSA or may have an earlier submission deadline. Don’t forget to keep copies of all submitted documents for your records.
  • If filling out the paper application, make sure it is in BLACK INK. They won’t accept it otherwise (including if it’s in blue!).
  • Do not leave a field blank. Use a zero if the question does not apply to you.
  • Don’t forget to report ALL required sources of untaxed income, such as Social Security or child support.
  • Use the 1040 federal tax return for reporting income taxes paid, not the W-2.
  • Include yourself in your parents’ household size, even if you didn’t live with them the previous year.
  • Sign the application. If you are filing as a dependent, make sure your parents sign too.

You want to file a FAFSA as soon as you can, but you and/or your parents haven’t filed your income tax forms yet. What should you do?

You can estimate what your 1040 federal tax return will look like by using your federal tax return from the previous year or by using the W-2 statements you and/or your parents receive shortly after the beginning of the year. REMEMBER though, that as soon as your federal tax return is filed, you must GO BACK TO YOUR SAR AND CORRECT THE INCOME INFORMATION. You can do this electronically if that’s the way you filed or by correction spaces provided on the hard copy of the SAR, if you received one. In addition, the colleges may need to be notified of any changes you have made. Check your prospective college’s financial aid office.

FSA ID allows students and parents to identify themselves electronically to access FSA Web sites.

An FSA ID is made up of a username and password and can be used to log into FAFSA on the Web.

You are not required to have an FSA ID to complete and submit a FAFSA on the Web application, it is the fastest way to sign your application and have it processed. It is also the only way to access or correct your information online, or to pre-fill a FAFSA on the Web application with information from your previous year’s FAFSA.

You can obtain your FSA ID here:

The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is a figure that projects what a family can pay for higher education in the upcoming year. Your family’s EFC is determined by the federal government through the information supplied in your FAFSA. Family income and assets, family size, number of household members in college, age of parents, and special circumstances such as medical or employment problems are all taken into account when calculating your EFC. Be certain that the colleges are aware of any extenuating circumstances that may exist in your family.

The Parental Contribution is determined after all income and assets are calculated to determine your family’s net worth. Home equity is not considered when applying for federal aid; however it is considered by colleges requiring the PROFILE when they consider distributing the college’s own funds. The final result of this analysis is the EFC, Expected Family Contribution.

The Student Contribution is determined after your earnings and assets are reviewed. Typically you are asked to contribute a portion of your personal savings. You are also expected to contribute a certain amount based on what you could realistically earn during the summer whether or not you actually choose to work. Should you receive merit-based awards from organizations outside of the college, these are considered as part of your available resources, or are applied against the self-help portion of your aid package.

Different colleges formulate their Financial Aid packages in different ways. Don’t be afraid to discuss these with the college financial aid office before making a final decision.

A Student Aid Report (SAR) is a report that is generated after you complete your FAFSA. It contains all the information you wrote or entered on the FAFSA, and it is your official record or proof that the federal processor received your FAFSA. You should receive a SAR within 4 – 6 weeks if you filed a paper FAFSA, or 1 – 2 weeks if you filed electronically.

If you provide an e-mail on your FAFSA (paper or electronic), you will receive your PIN and Student Aid Report (SAR) via e-mail only. You will not receive it via U.S. Postal mail.

If you find any errors on your SAR, report them to your prospective college’s financial aid office to ask how you should make corrections. Unresolved errors could delay your eligibility for aid.

Call 1-800-433-3243 (800-4-FEE-AID) if you do not receive your SAR in 4-6 weeks or 1-2 weeks if you filed electronically. Provide your name, Social Security Number and date of birth for verification.

Note your Data Release Number (DRN). Your DRN is the four-digit number located on the bottom left-hand corner of your SAR. You will need it to apply for aid to any school you did not originally list on your FAFSA.

Check if your SAR has been selected for verification. If there is an asterisk (*) after your EFC (Estimated Family Contribution, or the amount of money the government believes your family will be able to provide), it means your SAR has been selected for verification (one third of all SARs are selected). Your prospective college will compare your SAR with documents, including tax returns, which verify your financial status. If asked for verification, submit the information requested to your prospective college’s financial aid office ASAP.

CSS Profile

What is the CSS Profile?

The CSS profile is required by many private colleges and universities to determine your eligibility for non-governmental financial aid, such as the college’s own grants, loans and scholarships. It is administered by the College Scholarship Service, hence CSS.

  • Submission dates: The CSS PROFILE can be submitted in the fall; FAFSA cannot be submitted before January 1.
  • Specific questions: The CSS PROFILE contains questions specific to the school or program you’re applying to; FAFSA contains the same questions for everyone.
  • Different methodology: The CSS PROFILE determines your financial need differently than the FAFSA, taking into account such factors as whether your family owns a home. In general, the CSS PROFILE asks for more detailed information than FAFSA.
  • Minimum student contribution: The CSS PROFILE requires this; the FAFSA doesn’t.
  • Greater reliance on professional judgment: The CSS PROFILE gives financial aid counselors greater freedom to grant aid based on a student’s particular circumstances.
  • Cost: CSS PROFILE costs $9 plus $16 for each school or scholarship program selected; the FAFSA is free.
  • When you register for the CSS Profile, you will need the PROFILE code of the school or program to which you are applying. You can find a worksheet for this at You can register for the CSS PROFILE online at or get a registration form from the school’s financial aid administrator. You can also complete the CSS PROFILE online at
  • Make sure you know if the schools you are applying to require a CSS profile, or an institution specific Financial Aid form, and the deadlines that are required.
  • You should contact the schools to receive a status update on your application.
  • Each institution may have its own procedure, so check each one’s publications. Note required forms and deadlines. Both are critical to receiving full consideration for every program available.
  • On each page (not just each letter or form) of any material you submit directly to a college, write your name and your college ID #, if you have been given one.
  • Don’t vary your name or use nicknames on college related materials. Use the same name that appears on your social security card, on your high school record, SAT tests, and college and financial aid application materials.
  • Keep photocopies of all forms and materials that you send to colleges and to financial aid services.

NYS Opportunity Programs

About the Programs

All of these programs are for students who do not meet the academic requirements of the school they are applying to and are economically disadvantaged. Each school varies in what scores may be admissible and what the financial requirements are. The application process may also vary, therefore it is the students’ responsibility to find out from each school they are applying to what the process is.

Students should apply early, as these programs have limited spaces and students are placed on a first come first serve basis. They must also make sure that they are in contact with the school to ensure that all of the documents needed are received by the school.

Attendance of a summer program is required for all applicants in their first year, but the length of the program may differ from school to school. Students will receive tutoring and supplemental instructions. Supplemental workshops are offered which help students with critical thinking, study skills, and writing strategies, counselors and mentors are also made available.

Students will be required to complete a supplemental application and may be required to interview for the program they are applying to. The supplemental form usually consists of the following:

  • Financial Eligibility Form
  • A Biographical Essay
  • Letters of recommendation

This is the SUNY opportunity program. Students must indicate they are applying to this program on the application. They should check financial eligibility on the grid shown in the application.

For more information and eligibility requirements, Click Here.

This is an opportunity program for students applying to private schools within NY State. Check with the school for their requirements.