Financial aid is money that is given, earned, or loaned to help students pay for their education. Financial aid often makes it possible for students to attend colleges that would otherwise be too expensive.
AVERAGE YEARLY COST OF TUITION & FEES
FINANCIAL AID OVERVIEW
The four categories of financial aid are grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study. Grants and scholarships are considered “free money.” Loans and work-study are considered “self-help” programs.
Constitutes room, board, books and tuition; can be full, or partial at the small college level
Money given, usually because of financial need
Money awarded for exceptional academic achievement,
outstanding talent, and/or financial need
Money given, usually because of financial need
Money earned by working at a part-time job
Financial aid is most often awarded in the form of a package. Packages, consisting of grants, scholarships, loans, and/or work-study, are put together by the college’s financial aid office. Aid is often awarded on a “first-come, first-served” basis, so complete your applications early!
Except for merit-based scholarships, financial aid is generally awarded on the basis of financial need. Financial aid is the difference between the cost of attending a college and the amount a family can afford to pay. For example, if a family can afford $4,000 and the cost of attending a college is $19,000, the student has a financial need of $15,000. The greater the difference, the greater the need, and the more aid the student is eligible to receive.
While the financial aid process can be confusing, there are people who can help. School counselors can provide information and advice, and all college has financial aid counselors available to assist parents and students. There is also a great deal of information online.
COMPLETING THE NECESSARY FORMS
In order to receive need-based financial aid, you must complete and submit the necessary forms. If you are eligible for aid, the college’s financial aid office will put together a financial aid package for you.
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
Because most financial aid awards are based on need, it is necessary to have a way to determine how much a family can afford to pay for college. The FAFSA is the federal form that is used to determine this amount. In order to receive any government aid, you must complete a FAFSA.
The FAFSA asks for information on income, assets, and other financial details. This information is then applied to a formula, and the amount a family should be able to afford (called their Expected Family Contribution, or EFC) is calculated. It does not matter how many colleges you are applying to, you and your parents only need to complete one FAFSA.
For information on the FAFSA, go to www.FAFSA.gov. Encourage your parents to start working on the FAFSA as soon as the FAFSA is open on October 1 of your senior year. Complete the FAFSA and submit your information as soon as possible. Remember, “first-come, first-served!”. The FAFSA must be completed each year in order to be eligible for financial aid.
When you fill out the FAFSA, you automatically apply for a Pell Grant. This federally funded grant provides billions of dollars each year to low-income families.
All states have financial aid programs that award grants to students who go to college in their home state. In most states, you apply just by filling out the FAFSA.
The College’s Financial Aid Application Form
Some colleges have their own financial aid application form that you must complete. Contact the college’s Financial Aid Office for details.
Some private colleges and scholarship programs also require completion of the CSS PROFILE. Visit css.collegeboard.org.
Families who need additional funds to cover college costs often take out a loan. While students with financial need are usually offered a Federal Perkins Loan and/or a Direct Subsidized Loan as part of their financial aid package, students without financial need can apply for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. Parents can also apply for a PLUS Loan.
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