What is Financial Aid, Types and How Students Can Apply

Financial support is cash supplied from a wide range of sources that can assist you pay for faculty prices. One of the commonest forms of monetary support is federal student support. However, many students additionally search monetary support from states, faculties, the local people, employers, and a wide range of organizations.

How Does Financial Aid Work?

Most students should take the motion of making use of for monetary support. There are widespread purposes, just like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA ®), which is the way you apply for federal monetary support like Direct student loans and Pell Grants. And there are much less widespread purposes, that could be used for different support, comparable to some scholarships, and a few institutional and state support.

Many think about the FAFSA to be a very powerful monetary support software to finish. The info you present on the FAFSA might be used to find out your eligibility for not solely federal support, but additionally most state and institutional support.

How to Apply for Financial Aid

  1. To apply for federal monetary support, all the time begin with the FAFSA. In some circumstances, your college could require one other type, such because the CSS Profile.
  2. To apply for state-based support, comparable to state grants, you must begin with the FAFSA as nicely. But remember the fact that some states have their very own software course of. Your college’s Financial Aid Office can present additional steerage, or you may go to your state’s training company to search out extra info.
  3. To search for scholarships, the choices are plentiful. You can get scholarships from non-public donors or area people foundations and even your college. The software course of will fluctuate primarily based on the entry necessities.

Each monetary support supply may have its personal software directions, deadlines, and necessities. It’s all the time greatest to trace deadlines so that you don’t miss out on monetary support alternatives.

Do You Have to Pay Back Financial Aid?

It all will depend on the kind of monetary support.

If you might be given scholarships or grants, there may be normally no purpose why you’d be anticipated to pay these again. Some scholarship or grants could possibly be multi-year awards, however could have necessities for renewal, like sustaining a sure GPA, or persevering with to take part on a sports activities workforce.

There are a couple of grant packages which may have sure necessities (like a piece requirement when you are in your program, or after you graduate) that would convert to a loan when you fail to satisfy these necessities. A typical instance of this state of affairs could be a federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, which features a service obligation for the grant to stay “free” cash. However, all these alternatives ought to clearly clarify the phrases earlier than you settle for the cash.

When it involves student loans, these are categorized as monetary support. Student loans (federal or non-public) will must be paid again in keeping with the phrases and situations of the promissory notice—the contract you signed to just accept the loan cash.

And lastly, earned support doesn’t essentially need to be paid again, however it is advisable take the steps to earn these funds. Earned support packages are generally known as work-study packages. These packages usually require you to select an eligible work-study job, and work hours to earn a paycheck.

Types of Financial Aid

There are some widespread forms of monetary support that can assist you pay for faculty. Let’s break these down.

Grants for College

Grants are usually need-based awards. One of the commonest federal grants is the Federal Pell Grant or FSEOG grant. Grants are identified to be “free money” for faculty.

The commonest software to finish in an effort to qualify for grant cash is the FAFSA. But it’s all the time value it to take a look at your state and faculty web sites to see if there are some other purposes you must full.

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Scholarships for College

Scholarships are additionally “free money” however usually are awarded for benefit. Scholarship alternatives could also be accessible at your college, and there are literally thousands of alternatives provided by non-public scholarship suppliers.

Finding and making use of for scholarships generally is a activity, however it’s utterly value it. It’s not unusual for scholarship alternatives to require essays, interviews, or so that you can meet sure eligibility necessities. There are many assets on the market that can assist you discover scholarships, together with your college, area people, or scholarship matching websites, like ours, StudentScholarshipSearch.com.

Student Loans for College

Student loans should not thought-about free cash and must be repaid in keeping with the phrases of the loan. There are federal and personal student loan choices to assist pay for faculty.

Federal student loans require you to finish the FAFSA. Private student loans require you to discover a lender you wish to work with, then full an software with that lender.


Work-study is a chance for a student to earn their monetary support. It would require a student to work an eligible part-time job on or off campus. Federal Work-Study requires you to finish the FAFSA. Your college could have their very own work-study alternatives accessible, and also you’d need to ask them tips on how to qualify.

These packages are a bit totally different than your regular “part-time” job as a result of they’re provided as a part of the monetary support package deal from the college, and any cash earned from work-study won’t depend as earnings on subsequent yr’s FAFSA.

Financial Aid Applications

The commonest, and arguably a very powerful monetary support software, is the FAFSA. This is the applying you file for federal monetary support, comparable to sponsored and unsubsidized Direct Student Loans, and PLUS Loans. It’s not solely the applying for federal student support, however it’s the main one utilized by states and faculties to supply monetary support to students.

FAFSA Application

There are 3 ways you may file the FAFSA: Online, cellular app, or by finishing a paper software. The on-line or cellular model presents a extra personalized expertise as a result of it is going to solely current questions which apply to you (primarily based in your solutions to earlier questions and system logic), making the FAFSA far much less intimidating than folks count on it to be.

The paper FAFSA takes longer to course of because it have to be mailed and processed by hand. Whenever doable, we suggest utilizing one of many digital strategies to file the FAFSA.

Check out our FAFSA Guide that can assist you by means of the applying.

FAFSA Deadline

There are three FAFSA deadlines you need to be conscious of.

  1. State Deadline
  2. School Deadline
  3. Federal Deadline

The most vital deadline is whichever comes first! To discover your state deadline, take a look at our FAFSA deadlines web page.

CSS Profile

The CSS Profile is a monetary support software which solely must be accomplished if the college you might be attending (or a college you’re making use of to) requests you to finish it. The CSS Profile is supplied by the College Board. Many think about the CSS Profile to ask for extra in-depth monetary info from students and their households than the FAFSA.

The CSS Profile will not be a free software. The preliminary software prices $25, and every extra report is $16. Students could also be eligible for a charge waiver if sure standards are met.

If your college does require you to finish a CSS Profile to obtain institutional support, it’s extremely advisable that you simply full it. You don’t wish to miss out on potential monetary support alternatives provided by means of your college.

CSS Profile Deadline

The CSS Profile is launched each October 1, similar to the FAFSA. However, deadlines for completion are set by every college. Another purpose to familiarize your self along with your college’s monetary support web site.

Other Sources of Financial Aid for College

Beyond the FAFSA and CSS Profile, you could be eligible to obtain monetary support from different sources.

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Employer Tuition Reimbursement

It’s changing into increasingly more widespread for employers to supply tuition help to their workers. These packages assist them recruit and preserve proficient folks. It might be an attractive a part of a proposal package deal. If you might be at the moment working you could wish to see in case your employer will give you any help along with your faculty prices. If you might be having bother discovering any info, arrange a while along with your supervisor or HR to see your choices. They could also be keen to supply employer tuition help primarily based on request, and also you might not be conscious till you ask.

Parents, you could wish to double-check to see in case your employer presents any help which might switch to your little one.

Military Benefits for College

There are many advantages provided to army members and their dependents. From packages just like the GI Bill to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, to hundreds of personal scholarship alternatives. In addition, ROTC packages are additionally utilized by students to assist pay for faculty.

  1. Army ROTC
  2. Air Force ROTC
  3. Navy ROTC and Navy ROTC with Marine Option

There are even alternatives provided by army branches that may present student loan compensation advantages to those that enlist in sure profession fields. For instance, the Army presents beneficiant student loan compensation advantages to those that serve within the Army’s medical workforce the AMEDD.

For assist discovering army advantages, we suggest you take a look at TodaysMilitary.com, dropped at you by the United Stated Department of Defense.

Foster Care College Tuition

Education Training Vouchers (ETVs) can be found to assist students who’ve aged out of foster care to pay for faculty. You might want to decide in case your state participates or presents ETVs or different forms of help that can assist you pay for faculty. Foster Care to Success has supplied an inventory of ETVs, state packages, and scholarship alternatives for foster care students.

How Do I Apply for State Financial Aid?

Some states solely require you to finish the FAFSA. While different states may additionally ask for separate purposes for sure grant alternatives. Do some on-line analysis, have a look at your state’s division of training (or equal) web site.

State Residency Requirements

If you intend to attend a public faculty or college, you could discover that your college presents decrease tuition for state residents.

Schools will ask you to confirm your state residency to qualify you for a decrease tuition fee. State residency necessities will fluctuate between state. If you’re a dependent student, you could be required to display your custodial father or mother is a state resident to qualify for in-state tuition.

Institutional Applications for Student Financial Aid

Many faculties depend on info from the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile. However, you wish to affirm along with your college if there are some other kinds it is advisable full. Some faculties could have extra purposes for sure scholarship alternatives.

Cost of Attendance

Cost of attendance (COA) is the estimated value to attend a university/college for one yr, and it’ll embody prices past tuition and costs. The COA to your program is set by the college and might be utilized in figuring out your eligibility for monetary support. Some faculties seek advice from this as a Student Budget.

The COA is relatively vital in case you are counting on monetary support. Your college will use your value of attendance, together along with your Expected Family Contribution, to find out your monetary support package deal. You college will solely give you monetary support as much as your value of attendance.

What is Cost of Attendance

Cost of attendance (COA) is the entire quantity of your faculty prices for a single yr. This goes past tuition and costs, and will embody dwelling bills and different allowances. The COA is set by the college. Schools could have a number of prices of attendance. For instance, there could possibly be a value of attendance primarily based on students dwelling on campus, and one other for dwelling off campus. Your college would know the prices to stay on campus, however for a student dwelling off-campus they’ll decide a mean primarily based on estimated rental prices across the college. Another widespread instance is seeing totally different prices of attendance primarily based on in-state vs. out-of-state residency standing, as most faculties supply totally different tuition charges primarily based on state residency.

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Common costs included in the price of attendance:

  • Tuition and costs
  • Room and board
  • Books or provides
  • Transportation
  • Miscellaneous/private bills

Other costs you might even see included in a value of attendance:

  • Dependent care
  • Study-abroad bills
  • Disability-related bills
  • Loan charges
  • Costs of acquiring skilled licensure or certification

What is the Actual Cost of College?

The precise value of faculty is predicated on averages or estimates. Some prices are set, like tuition and costs. But different prices might be discretionary, for instance the estimated value of books could also be greater than you’ll need to spend since you plan on renting as an alternative of shopping for textbooks.

There may be conditions the place your prices could possibly be increased than your value of attendance. For instance, your program could require you to have sure provides which exceeds the quantity outlined in your value of attendance. If this occurs, and you might be being restricted monetary support funds, you may ask your college if they’re keen to extend your value of attendance to accommodate your distinctive scenario.

What is EFC?

The info you present in your FAFSA is used to calculate your EFC, also called your anticipated household contribution. Your EFC is an index quantity utilized by your college to find out your eligibility for sure need-based monetary support packages. It’s a method to decide your loved ones’s skill to pay for faculty.

What does my FAFSA EFC quantity imply

When it involves awarding need-based support, your college will take your value of attendance and subtract your EFC to find out your monetary want. The college will use your monetary want to find out what forms of monetary support you might be eligible for beneath the federal student support and state packages. If your college solely depends on the FAFSA, then they may probably additionally supply institutional support. However, in the event that they use different monetary support kinds (just like the CSS Profile), they could take into accounts the data supplied on these kinds earlier than packaging you with need-based institutional support.

Your EFC will not be used to find out your non-need-based support.

Many households really feel as if the EFC is the quantity they might want to pay, and that’s not solely true. There is not any requirement for faculties to satisfy your monetary want. It’s not unusual for students to obtain a monetary support package deal and have an quantity due in extra of their EFC.

Why is my EFC so excessive?

The function of the EFC is to find out your loved ones’s skill to pay for faculty. There could possibly be a couple of the explanation why your EFC is excessive. It could possibly be that your family earnings is excessive, or your loved ones has a excessive internet value of reportable belongings. If you or your loved ones imagine your EFC is manner too excessive, you’re not alone. That is among the commonest considerations in regards to the EFC.

There may be an opportunity that you simply accomplished the FAFSA incorrectly. One of the commonest points will not be reporting relevant info from an IRS filed Schedule 1 type. If you used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import your tax info from the IRS, it’ll be troublesome so that you can establish any points in your student support report out of your FAFSA submitting.

If you might be involved along with your ensuing monetary support package deal, and also you assume your EFC is an inaccurate reflection of your monetary scenario, it’s time to make an appointment along with your monetary support advisor.


Learn More About Federal Student Aid

Filing the FAFSA

Dependency Status

Student Parent Financial Information

Avoiding Errors in Filing Head of Household

Financial Aid Appeals

Parent Information

FAFSA Deadlines

What is Financial Aid?