What is Financial Aid?
Financial aid is help for meeting college costs, both direct educational costs (tuition, fees, and books) and personal living expenses (room and board, personal expenses, and travel). Financial aid is usually awarded in a package based on need-based aid and no-need scholarships awarded for various talents. Packages will include three different kinds of aid:
- Grants – gifts that do not require repayment
- Low-interest loans – offered by federal agencies and from schools themselves. Payment plans vary.
- Work-Study - an opportunity for the student to work during the school year to contribute to the cost of attending.
Schools have varied expectations for filing for financial aid. Read the directions for each school, the forms required for that school and the filing deadlines.
Need Based Financial Aid
Most colleges award financial aid in a “package”. Individual colleges determine financial aid packages based upon the information the applicant provides on several forms:
1. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - All students applying for financial aid must complete this form. Families supply information about their income and assets. The form is most easily filled out using a completed tax return. Forms will be available in December/January of the senior year at www.fafsa.ed.gov and cannot be filed before January 1 of the year in which the student is applying for aid. The HSPS college counseling office recommends that all students complete the FAFSA because some college merit scholarship programs require this documentation.
2. The College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile - Most private colleges and universities require more information than the FAFSA can provide. These schools require that the student complete the PROFILE as well. This form helps institutions determine the financial aid package for admitted students. There is a fee for setting up the file, as well as fees for sending the information to most schools. So be sure that the schools require this information first. Students may file the PROFILE at www.collegeboard.org.
3. College/University Institutional Forms - Some colleges have forms of their own in addition to or instead of the PROFILE. Check with each school and follow the directions and deadlines.
Merit Based Scholarships
Aside from the National Merit program and competitive scholarships sponsored by businesses and community service organizations, “no-need” awards are generally awarded by an institution specifically for use at that institution. Almost all colleges have no-need scholarships for outstanding students. Students should contact the colleges/universities directly for information concerning the scholarships available at the institution. There is a free scholarship search available at www.fastweb.com.
Cost of Attendance
The cost of attendance includes the total price of tuition, fees, room, board, textbooks, supplies, transportation and personal expenses for one year of college.
Some colleges will give you an estimated Cost of Attendance for the current academic year. You can use an inflation rate of 4% a year to calculate the costs for your subsequent years as a guide.
This will be the actual sticker price for a school and this is your starting point for the Net Price Calculator.
Net Price Calculator
Every college and university in the U.S. is required to have a net price calculator on their website. The net price, or out-of-pocket cost, is the bottom line cost of college. It is the difference between the cost of attendance and grants. It is the amount of money you must pay from savings, income, and loans to cover college costs. Be sure to use this as a guide, not a definite promise of grants/scholarships/loans.
Start Here: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/features/net-price-calculator
The internet has vastly simplified the process of searching and applying for scholarships. Free scholarship databases abound; register at several sites since their search parameters may be different, giving you access to a greater variety of scholarships. One caveat: you should never be asked to pay a fee to find or apply for scholarships. Beware of those scholarship search companies that claim that they can guarantee that you’ll be eligible for a scholarship. Treat all such offers as the scams that they are.
For more information on scholarships read the Searching for Scholarships and List of Scholarships.
Tobacco-Free Life Academic ScholarshipNational Hispanic Health Foundation Scholarship Program
Varsity Tutors Scholarship
Visine Students with Vision Scholarship Program
College Scholarships and Grants Available for Veterans
American Psychological Association Scholarships, Grants and Awards
State Farm Grants and Scholarships
The Rover College Scholarship
NSHSS Foundation STEM Scholarships
Scholarships and Fellowships | UNCF Merck Science Initiative
Green Home Improvement Scholarship
Microsoft College Scholarships