Financial Aid For College: Know Your Options
Students choose to go to college for a number of reasons: usually some combination of feeding their passion for knowledge, achieving their career goals and positioning themselves for higher earnings potential. College is an investment in the future one that can seem relatively expensive at the time but that potentially holds the promise of lifelong rewards.
Fortunately, there are sources of financial aid to help you afford college. Once you understand the various options and which ones you may qualify for, you can navigate education costs more easily.
Before we get into the specific types of financial aid, its important to understand that some are awarded based on financial need, while others are based on merit. For example, depending on your familys financial circumstances, you may qualify for grants free money awarded by the federal or state government, your college, a nonprofit organization or a private organization based on financial need. Academic and athletic scholarships are examples of merit-based aid: They are awarded to high achievers regardless of financial circumstances.
How Do I Find Scholarships
You might hear this a lot when youre knee-deep in the college search: Lots of scholarships are out there.’ Unfortunately, that doesnt give you much to go on.
You can find various scholarships by asking around at:
- Your school counselor, college and career center office
- Various civic organizations
- The company your parents work for or your own employer
- Scholarships and universities ask about merit-based scholarships at each institution in which youre interested
- Your local library
Dont forget to look for scholarships on:
- Social media
- The U.S. Department of Labors scholarship search tool
Be careful. You want to tap into legitimate scholarship offers. You should never pay to find scholarships or other financial aid.
You can apply for at any time. In fact, you can also apply for scholarships while youre in college! Some scholarships do not require essays, such as 1.
What If It’s Not Enough
If you feel your federal financial aid award is inadequate, you can request a professional judgment review by the awarding school. However, you will need a legitimate reason to convince the school your award is insufficient.
One way would be to demonstrate that your family’s financial situation has changed for the worse. If that’s the case, the school will typically ask you to submit a letter summarizing the new circumstances. This could include a divorce, a death in the family, a job loss, or sudden high medical costs.
If another school has offered you a larger award, you could try contacting the school offering the lower award and ask if they will match the larger offer.
Also Check: Going To College While In The Air Force
What Questions Can I Ask Financial Aid Officers At Schools I’m Planning To Apply To
- Whats the average total costincluding tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, travel, and other personal expensesfor the first year?
- Will applying for financial aid impact my admission application? Whats the priority deadline to apply for financial aid, and when will I be notified about financial aid award decisions?
- How is financial aid affected if I apply under an early decision or early action program?
- Does the college offer need-based and merit-based financial aid?
- Do I need to complete a separate application for merit scholarships if available? Does the college require me to fill out the CSS Profile?
- If my familys financial circumstances change after filing the FAFSA, should I contact the financial aid office? Will my financial aid award be adjusted? Do I need to apply for financial aid every year?
Reach Out To Experts And Utilize Online Resources
As youre wrapping your head around the process involved for financial aid, it helps to know what resources are at your disposal.
One of the first places to start is with experts. High school guidance counselors and college financial aid officers are there to help students plan for a successful future and find financial aid. They provide individualized advice based on a students academic and financial situation. A counselor will also be aware of scholarships, financial aid or tuition-assistance programs specific to a students school, community or state.
There is also a wealth of online information available to students and parents on how to apply for financial aid. For instance, you could get started with
- The help section of the FAFSA.ed.gov site, which answers many tricky questions parents and students might have.
- The College Financing Plan from the U.S. Department of Education, which helps students quickly understand and compare financial aid offers from different colleges.
Also Check: Ashworth College Accredited
Covering College Costs With Grants
Generally, your school will pay out your grant money in at least two payments called disbursements. Typically, the college applies your grant money toward your tuition, fees, and room and board. Any money left over is paid to you for other expenses.2
Most grants are not guaranteed for all years of college. For example, you may become ineligible for a need-based grant if your familys financial situation changes dramatically from one year to the next. Similarly, merit-based grants may not be guaranteed every year either. You might be required to maintain a certain GPA or meet other criteria to qualify for the grant.
If youre offered grants for college, make sure you understand all the requirements and how you can qualify in the futureand remember to fill out your FAFSA every year.
State Financial Aid Overview
The Commission for Higher Education is dedicated to making college affordable through need-based financial aid awards and to allow choice by granting awards to those attending public, independent and proprietary colleges. Prior to July 1, 2012, state financial aid was administered by the State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana , which merged with the Commission in 2012.
Award notices contain information about a student’s eligibility for Indiana state financial aid awards. Eligibility is based on the data disclosed on the student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid , the approved tuition and regularly assessed fees at the college the student will be attending, the type of high school diploma the student earned and the number of credit hours the student has successfully completed.
State financial aid awards may be applied only to tuition and regularly assessed fees. The financial aid office of a student’s choice institution is also notified of the student’s state financial aid status.
Indiana ranks fifth in the nation in the need-based grant aid per undergraduate full-time equivalent enrollment, making higher education more accessible and attainable for more Hoosiers. Indiana has two primary grant programs: The Frank O’Bannon Grant, Indiana’s primary need-based financial aid program, and the 21st Century Scholarship, Indiana’s early promise program where students sign up in middle school.
Please visit our page for more information about Indiana’s grant programs.
You May Like: How Much Are My College Books Worth
What Is The Maximum Income To Qualify For Financial Aid
Maximum income limits will vary depending on the source of the financial aid you are seeking. However, when seeking federal student aid, there is no income limit. Instead, when you submit the FAFSA, many factors will be taken into consideration to determine your eligibility, including the size of your family, your year in school, the cost of attendance, and your EFC.
Where Can I Find Scholarships
There are many scholarship sources. Set aside time to search for and explore scholarship opportunities. Here are places to find scholarships:
- Use the BigFuture Scholarship Search tool to find scholarships, other financial aid, and internships from over 2,200 programs.
- Take part in College Board Opportunity Scholarships, a program that guides you through the college planning process and offers you a chance to earn money for college for each action you complete.
- Check the websites of colleges youre applying to. See what scholarships they offer and how to apply. Schools may consider you for scholarships after you submit your FAFSA® and, if needed, your CSS Profile.
- Ask your school counselor about awards for students graduating from your high school and for residents of your town, county, and state.
- Look into scholarships sponsored by your church, mosque, synagogue, or other religious community local branches of Rotary or Kiwanis clubs and your parents or your own employers.
- If you take the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 and say yes to our Student Search Service®, you can help scholarship providers find you. We’ll also connect you to our scholarship partners, who offer over $300 million annually in scholarships to qualified low-income and minority students.
Recommended Reading: Do College Credits Expire After 5 Years
Is There A Limit On How Much Financial Aid You Can Receive
The maximum amount of financial aid you can receive depends on the program and your level of need. For example, when you fill out the FAFSA, your school subtracts your EFC from your Cost of Attendance to determine your financial need, becoming your maximum limit for financial aid. Further, specific programs often have limits. The Pell Grant, for example, has a yearly maximum as well as a limit on how many times you can receive the grant in your life.
Breaking Down The Css Profile
Submit the CSS Profile if the college or university you plan to attend uses CSS as part of its financial aid process. Do this Oct. 1, at the same time you submit your FAFSA and every year after on the same date if required.
Check the College Board list of Participating Institutions and Programs for detailed information about which schools require CSS and which classifications of students or parents are required to file.
Amherst College in Amherst, Mass., for example, requires the CSS Profile for domestic and international students, as well as from noncustodial parents of either. Loyola University in Baltimore, Md., on the other hand, requires the CSS Profile for both domestic and international students but does not require information from noncustodial parents.
Most people pay a $25 fee to submit their initial CSS Profile . Waivers may be available for first-time domestic college applicants if:
- You received an SAT fee waiver.
- Your parents’ income is $45,000 or less for a family of four.
- You are an orphan or ward of the court under age 24.
The open datethe soonest you can apply for financial aidis more important than the deadline, which is the latest you can apply.
You May Like: Umaine Textbook Buyback
Other New York State Grants And Awards
New York State offers a number of special scholarships for students who excelled in high school, or who may be pursuing particular academic objectives in special programs. Information about these scholarships may be obtained from the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation at www.hesc.ny.gov
Get Good Grades And Earn Merit Aid
Plenty of state colleges and universities offer merit aid to incoming students with high grade-point averages or who ace their college admissions tests. For instance, Mississippi State will waive out-of-state tuition mandates for students with great grades, as will North Carolina State.
Again, check with your intended college or university and ask about merit-based aid and tuition discounts. After all, colleges love high academic achievers so chances are, merit aid is available.
Recommended Reading: Does The Air Force Pay For School
What Is The Application Process
There is no charge for applying to the Minnesota State Grant Program. Students can apply for a State Grant by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid . This form is used to determine the student’s and family’s expected financial contribution, and is the same form used to apply for the Federal Pell Grant and other types of aid from institutions. To receive a State Grant for a term, the FAFSA must be submitted to the federal processing center within 30 days of the school’s term start date.
Undocumented students can apply for a Minnesota State Grant by completing the MN Dream Act application.
Borrow Strategically Through Student Loans
For some students, financial aid is the only reason they can complete a degree rather than dropping out of college. For others, financial aid helps them leave school with some student loans but limits the debt to a manageable amount.
If you still have a gap between financial aid and the total cost of attending college, student loans can be an option to make up the difference.
Listed below are the types of loans you might see on a financial aid award letter. Its generally best to prioritize the loans listed first :
Be smart and strategic about how you use student loans. Borrow only what you need to cover college costs after using all other aid.
Also Check: Dorm Room Mattress Size
How Much Money For College Do State Grants Award
The average amount of state aid for undergraduates who received it was $2,700. This means some states award more, will others offer less. For example, Minnesota offers state aid to in-state undergrads and graduates.
The highest award for 2017-2018 ranges from about $7,463 at a public two-year college to $11,812 at a private four-year college. The average award is approximately $2,401. The minimum award is $100 per year.
Application Process For Need
To qualify for need-based aid a student must have a significant amount of financial need, which is determined by the federal government based on the FAFSA. Using the information submitted on the FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education calculates a figure called the Expected Family Contribution . If the EFC is less than the cost of attending a college, the student has financial need .
Students can file an appeal with their college financial aid office in order to seek additional financial aid, though the information about the process is not always clear or available online.SwiftStudent, a free service, provides template letters for college students.
Some well-to-do colleges have need-based aid of their own to distribute, in addition to federal and state aid . These colleges require, in addition to the FAFSA, the CSS Profile financial form, which goes into greater detail.
Recommended Reading: Ashworth College Accreditation Regional
What Financial Aid Is Available For Students In Canada
To help students financially during the pandemic, the federal government created the Canada Student Benefit but at $1,250 to $2,000 a month between May and August, it wont fully pay for the above school expenses.
However, the federal and the provincial/territorial governments offer financial aid to both part-time and full-time university and college students in Canada.
The Government of Canadas Canada Student Loans Program provides financial assistance to students on the basis of financial need. The amount of funding given to help pay for expenses such as tuition, school supplies and living expenses is determined by numerous factors such as family income, tuition, program length and whether youre enrolled full- or part-time, and school-related expenses, as noted above. For a better idea of how much student aid you may be eligible for, check out the Student Financial Assistance Estimator.
For full-time university or college students, CSLP provides approximately 60% of assessed financial need through federal loans. The weekly maximum CSLP limit is $210. With the effects of the recent pandemic on the economy, the federal government offers additional financial support to students, increasing the limit to $350 for the 2020/2021 academic year.
Illinois And Federal Financial Aid Programs
The number of scholarships and grants made through programs administered by ISAC, as well as the individual dollar amount awarded, are subject to sufficient annual appropriations by the Illinois General Assembly and the Governor.
The State of Illinois has many programs and services that deliver financial aid to students in Illinois. Below are some of the state financial aid programs that, dependent upon annual appropriations , may be available. Additionally, a number of financial aid programs are offered by the federal government, and they are listed here, along with links to their descriptions. Be sure to research your options before finalizing your financial aid path. Also, see the links below for more information about financial aid and to determine the status of funding levels for individual programs during a specific academic year.
Note: Programs denoted below by an asterisk are available to undergraduate students only a double asterisk indicates programs for graduate students only. All other programs are for both undergraduate and graduate students.
Recommended Reading: Free Grammarly For Students
How Do I Apply For Scholarships And Bursaries
Scholarships and bursaries are meant to help students succeed under specific financial or educational circumstances. There are too many to count, coming from a wide variety of donors, from local businesses to large corporations, the university or college itself and non-profit organizations, as well as federal, provincial and territorial governments.
You can also visit your university or college financial aid office to find out more about the types of awards available, and which scholarships and bursaries you might qualify for. Check out studentawards.com and scholarshipscanada.com. There are government scholarships, too.
You have nothing to lose when it comes to applying for student aid. If you take the time to learn more about what you may be eligible for, you could be pleasantly surprised by how much youre awarded and how much it can reduce the financial and emotional stress of pursuing higher education.
Start Researching Planning And Learning Now
Ideally, students and their families should start planning for college costs years in advance. Students and their parents can educate themselves on the process before diving in, said Fastweb contributing editor Kathryn Knight Randolph. The college admissions process takes some students months even years to complete it should be the same with financial aid.
Starting early could also give you time to plan and avoid costly mistakes. Youll have plenty of time to apply for financial aid ahead of deadlines and employ strategies that can help you receive more aid.
Research the process, apply and then figure out which type of financial aid package is right for you through further research and seeking counsel, Randolph said.
Read Also: What Colleges Accept 2.5 Gpa