Financial Aid Basics

Financial aid comes in lots of forms: publicly-funded federal and state aid, locally-funded private aid, institutional aid, scholarships, grants, loans, and student employment. Here's a little detail to get you started:

  • Scholarships and grants are gift aid (you never have to pay them back). Scholarships may be based on merit in academics, athletics, or a particular field of study. Scholarships may also be based on affiliation with an employer, organization, or religious group. Grants are usually awarded to students with financial need.
  • Federally-sponsored student loans must be repaid, but it's pretty easy to meet the eligibility requirements, and they offer flexible repayment and low interest rates.
  • Federal work-study programs offer students the opportunity to earn money while they are in school , with several added benefits for participation in the program.

Ask your high school counselor for financial aid information. Contact the financial aid office of the schools you're interested in attending for information on financial aid programs, application procedures and forms, deadlines, and awarding policies. Talk to a financial aid counselor if you have problems or unusual circumstances. They can help you discover financial aid programs to meet your needs and qualifications.

Federal Student Aid

Get documents you need starting with your Social Security Number, driver's license, income tax return and bank statements.

Print and look over the FAFSA Pre-Application Worksheet. It is always beneficial, and sometimes necessary, to have a parent work through the application process with you. There are some questions that only your parents or legal guardian will be able to answer, so be sure to pick a time that they can spend with you, and complete the application together.

Go to the FAFSA website and fill out your FAFSA application online.

By completing and submitting a FAFSA, you supply the information that financial aid offices and programs use to determine your need for financial aid.

Seniors, after your completed FAFSA is processed, you'll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that summarizes the information you supplied on the FAFSA. The information from your FAFSA will be sent to the schools you listed on the form, and the schools will send you an award letter identifying any aid for which you qualify.

Many people need to get multiple forms of financial aid to make it through college. All these payments add up to major monthly expenses. Once you graduate you should consider consolidating your college loans. This will help lower your payments as well as reduce the number of bills you need to keep track of.

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