One of the biggest myths about college admissions is that financial aid is far and few between. The reality is that most families qualify for some type of financial aid, but to be successful, families must understand the components of financial aid and process to apply.
Financial Aid is an umbrella term that refers to several different awards, which includes:
- Federal Loans (Perkins, Direct, Stafford, Plus)
- Federal Grants (Pell)
- Institutional Grants (scholarships and grants awarded by individual colleges)
- Institutional Loans (loans offered by individual colleges)
- You can usually complete the CSS Profile as early as October of the student’s senior year of high school.
- FAFSA is available beginning January 1 every year. Families should complete it immediately. *Note, families need to complete FAFSA every year a student is in college. Financial Aid is awarded on a yearly basis.
- Families are required to submit tax-returns to colleges, therefore, we encourage families to complete taxes as early as possible.
- Deadlines matter in financial aid – once federal money is distributed, it’s gone.
- If you are unhappy with a financial aid package, call the college. Private schools in particular, are often willing to work with families to make attendance feasible.
Financial Aid can be need-based or merit-based:
- Need-based aid is awarded based on a student’s financial need as determined by FAFSA.
- Merit-based aid is awarded based on achievement – it can be based on academic, extra-curricular accomplishments (including athletic talent), leadership etc.
Students should also apply to private scholarships. There are thousands of private scholarships available and the amount can vary from a little to thousands of dollars. To begin your private scholarship research, start with these websites and organizations that provide scholarships to students across the country:
- College Board
- Hispanic Scholarship Federation
- Ronald McDonald House Charities
These websites are just a few of hundreds. Additionally, students should check with local community organizations like Rotary, YMCA or Chamber of Commerce, as well as parent’s place of employment for scholarship opportunities.