Financial aid is based primarily upon need. Scholarships are awarded based upon talent, scores, grades, geographic desirability and a host of other factors that fit a school’s institutional priorities.

The Bottom Line

  • The amount of financial aid you need will not usually affect your chances for admission to a college.
  • Do not let the cost of a college – especially a private college – deter you from applying.
  • Always begin scholarship searches during junior year

Below is a list of essential terms to understand 

  • Costs

    Colleges and universities expect you and your parents to contribute as much as you can to the cost of your education; however, they will do their best to bridge the gap between what you can afford and what the college costs.

  • Apply

    If you and your family cannot support the full cost of your education, you should apply for financial aid. At many colleges, more than 50 or 60% of the students receive some financial assistance. Each student must correspond directly with the financial aid office at each college regarding procedures and available funding. Make sure you don’t miss important deadlines. Also, keep a copy of every financial aid form you send.

  • Grants and Scholarships

    Grants are gifts of money based upon need.

    Scholarships are awarded for academic excellence or for special abilities in such areas as athletics and the arts.

  • Loans

    Most aid packages include a loan component, which is money that must be repaid usually after graduation. Loans for education usually have lower interest rates than other types of loans. Some experts advise that your monthly debt repayment should not exceed 10-15 percent of a new graduate’s starting monthly income.

  • Net Price Calculators

    All colleges are obligated by the federal government to offer tools to estimate the potential family contribution or the projected costs of college. These estimators or “Net Price Calculators” are available through colleges’ financial aid or financial planning pages on their websites.


    • FAFSA and CSS Profile

      The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required by every school if you are applying for aid and many schools also require The College Scholarship Service’s Student Aid profile (CSS Profile). Both applications are available online.

      The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available in October. Applicants will be able to use completed tax returns from the previous year and link their IRS data directly.

    • Work-Study

      Most aid packages include a federal work-study component, which includes a part-time job on campus, subsidized in part by federal money. Student hours are limited as the purpose is to provide students with some spending money and not to burden their schedules.