The Reed Grant is need based -- they have no merit aid... frown

What you are also pointing out is that it is crazy complicated -- and parents are often whiplashed and surprised by the complexity of it. That is why I like the CC financial aid discussion forum -- there are a couple of people who work as financial aid officers posting out there who can help you decipher/cut through the bs and figure out what is really going on.

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).