Frequently Asked Questions


Q: How do I apply for financial aid?

A: Carleton requires two forms to apply for financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a federal application, and required for federal assistance. In addition, the College Board CSS Profile is required to determine a student’s need and eligibility for assistance at Carleton. More specific instructions can be found at the following sites:

Returning Students

Prospective Students

Q: Why does Carleton require the College Board CSS Profile?

A: Carleton primarily uses the College Board CSS Profile since we believe it produces a more refined and accurate assessment of a family’s need and their requirement for funding from Carleton.

Q: How can I find out if my financial aid application is complete?

A: Prospective applicants should contact the Office of Student Financial Services. Returning students should check the Hub.

Q: Does Carleton offer merit based scholarships?

A: Financial aid at Carleton is primarily need-based. However, Carleton does participate in three merit scholarship programs: the National Merit Scholarship Program, the National Achievement Scholarship Program, and the National Hispanic Recognition Program. Students who are finalists in these programs are eligible for Carleton scholarships of $2,000 per year.

Q: I am a National Merit finalist. How do I qualify for a scholarship?

A: If you have been named a National Merit finalist and have listed Carleton as your college choice with the National Merit Corporation, you will qualify for a National Merit Scholarship of at least $2,000 each year. Please note that although Carleton is a college sponsor, National Merit actually awards these scholarships according to their rules and procedures. With that in mind, it is important that eligible recipients maintain communication with National Merit.

Q: Will Carleton match the grant assistance offered by another college?

A: No. Financial aid at Carleton is based on financial need, and will not be influenced by assistance offered by another college. However, if the differences in aid awards are due to changes in the family’s financial circumstances that were previously not communicated to Carleton, the application may be reviewed again when the additional information is provided.

Q: Do I have to apply for financial aid every year?

A: Yes, if you receive assistance beyond National Merit or Campus Employment you need to file for financial aid each year. You can find instructions on how to reapply for financial aid for the upcoming academic year here.

Q: Will my financial aid package change after my first year?

A: Carleton is committed to being affordable and meeting the full demonstrated financial need of students for all four years of attendance. In most cases, we will attempt to keep aid awards as constant as possible in subsequent years. However, as significant changes in a family’s finances occur (both positive and negative) an aid award may also change to reflect those circumstances.  Students can also expect their loan amounts to increase in subsequent years along with our cost increase.  In most cases, student loans will increase by about $1,000 in each subsequent year.  Last year’s graduating class had an average 4-year cumulative loan debt of $19,405.

Q: What happens if my parents’ financial situation changes in the middle of the year?

A: If there is a significant change in your family’s financial situation, you may submit a request for a review of your new financial situation. The request must be in writing and should explain what changes have occurred. The request should contain specific changes (dollar amounts, dates, etc.) along with documentation to verify the request.

Q: If I do not qualify for need-based aid, what other aid is available?

A: Even if you do not qualify for need-based aid the following may be available to help with financing Carleton: Student employment, Direct Stafford Unsubsidized Loan, Direct Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS Loans), and various alternative loans. For information regarding other loans options go here.

Q.  I am going to study off-campus on a non-Carleton program.  The program's fees are less than a term at Carleton.  Will my need-based financial aid be adjusted?

A. Yes. Carleton students can take their need-based financial aid on ONE approved non-Carleton program.  If that program's fees are less than a term at Carleton, your need-based aid will be adjusted

Q.  I am going to study off-campus for a term and student employment is part of my financial aid package for that term. Can I request additional funding to replace the work component of my financial aid?

A. You have some options:

  • During terms in which you are enrolled on campus, you may work up to 15 hours per week to make up lost work earnings.  You should check with SFS to determine your eligibility.
  • Request a loan to replace the student employment award for the term you are off-campus.

Q: Why is my student employment not reflected on my student account?

A: Student employment dollars must be earned! You can designate 0-100% of your earnings to be applied directly to your student account here. Select "Student Payroll Tuition Payment Authorization" on the left bar.

Q: Are student employment earnings taxable?

A: Yes. However, you must earn a certain dollar amount before tax withholding will take effect. During academic terms, the amount of federal tax withheld, if any, is minimal. Wages earned during breaks are subject to both FICA and Medicare taxes, as well as federal and state withholdings.

Q: Where do I find my W2?

A: Your Carleton W2 is available on the Hub.

Q: I am filing a tax return; do I include my student employment earnings?

A: Yes. Student employment earnings are taxable.  If you file a tax return, you must include all earnings, which includes your student employment earnings along with earnings from any other employment.  However, when applying for financial aid, the FAFSA allows earnings from need-based employment programs to be removed from the family contribution calculation.

Q. I am not required to file a tax return, do my student employment earnings go on my Non-Filer Statement?

A.  Yes.  All sources of income should be listed on your non-filer statement.  This includes student employment, fellowships, taxable interest, and summer and break employment.

Q. My family has a 529 plan.  How is that reported on the financial aid applications?

A. If a 529 plan is owned by a dependent student or the student's parent (custodial parent if the parents are divorced/separated), it is reported as a parent asset on the financial aid applications.  If the 529 plan is owned by anybody else, such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle or non-custodial parent, it is not reported as an asset on the financial aid applications.

Q: How can I request a tax transcript?

A: Only submit a tax transcript if Student Financial Services has specifically requested this form. You can request the tax transcript using Form 4506-T from the IRS.

Q: Why do I have to send copies of my tax returns for Carleton to IDOC and still use the IRS Data Retrieval for my FAFSA?

A: This is required because you actually have two separate applications for financial aid.  First, to apply and qualify for institutional grant aid from Carleton you need to complete the College Board CSS Profile.  To ensure accurate data is submitted for the CSS Profile, we require copies of your (and parents) tax returns.  Secondly, to apply and qualify for federal student aid, we require the FAFSA at Carleton since most of our students will qualify for some federal assistance.  The FAFSA encourages students to use the IRS Data Retrieval process which allows data to be drawn directly from IRS records and ensures accuracy. Unfortunately, the verification of tax data is captured differently requiring applicants to use different formats to report the same information.

Q: What is Verification?

A: More detailed information about the federal verification process can be found on a dedicated verification webpage.

Q: Why is my loan not reflected on my student account?

A: Need-based loans require Entrance Counseling, a Master Promissory Note (MPN), and an award letter submitted to Student Financial Services for your loan to be reflected on your student account.

Q: What is Satisfactory Academic Progress?

A: Normally a student is expected to fulfill all graduation requirements in four years or the equivalent of 12 academic terms. All students are subject to academic review and thus are assumed to be making satisfactory progress as long at a normal rate of progress which is considered to be 17 or 18 credits per term.  More information about satisfactory academic progress can be found here.

Q: How much loan debt can I expect by the time I graduate?

A: Every student may have a different amount of loan debt they are willing to accumulate during their time at Carleton.  However seniors graduating in 2019, had an average debt of about $19,405 for those taking student loans which compares to the national loan debt average at four year private institutions of $32,600.  The Class of 2018’s average was $21,020 and the Class of 2017 had an average of $21,035.  Students can expect the loan component in their aid award to increase in each subsequent year by about $1,000.  It should also be noted that students can reduce their loan with outside scholarships on a dollar-for-dollar basis.  Since the above loan debt figures are averages, note that each student’s individual experience may be different.

Q: I have not completed the Master Promissory Note (MPN) for my federal loan. Where do I find the link to complete the MPN?

A: Go here for links to the MPNs Direct Stafford, and Direct PLUS Loans.

Q: I have not completed Entrance Counseling for my federal loan. Where do I find the link to complete Entrance Counseling?

A: Click on the loan you need to do entrance counseling for:

Direct Stafford Loans

Q: Does Northfield Option affect my financial aid award?

A: No. Northfield Option will not change the amount of financial assistance you receive since there are expenses when living off campus.