Originally Posted by intparent
I have this massive spreadsheet where I tracked everything about D2's college search. I think the most complicated part of it is the financial aid portion -- just tracking all the offers and the differences. And due dates & formats for FA materials to the college. Every one of them has a different set of requirements for CSS forms, how to get tax forms to them, what tax forms they want, and what the due dates for all that stuff is. One thing I will say is that there is no way our kids can just handle and figure this out on their own -- it is super, super complicated, and requires an adult understanding of your finances, assets, taxes, etc. It was practically a full time job to get all the paperwork in this last spring. Some people say you should apply to a LOT of colleges (15-20) to compare FA offers. I think that would have killed me (never mind my kid doing the applications).

The process would be simpler if colleges charged everyone the same amount (lower than the current list prices), but that amounts to a parental wealth/income test. With a complicated financial aid process, colleges have made the wealth/income test easier for some but added to it a parental IQ/organization/motivation/cooperation test. Some applicants on CC report that their parents refuse to divulge any financial information, putting them in a difficult situation.