Student Financial Aid

What you need to know

How do I apply for loans in my state?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) serves as the soul application for financial aid at all universities and colleges. It covers all federal, state, college and university financial aid programs. The only loans not covered are private student loans, which you would look for only in emergency.

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Which FAFSA form should I use?

Every authority on the subject recommends using the online FAFSA application because it will be processed faster, it is less likely to have errors and it saves on paper. If you can't use this form, a local university or college will have the paper form available.

How will I know if I am eligible for financial aid?

More than 70 percent of students receive financial aid from the U.S. federal government. Once you calculate your EFC (Estimated Family Contribution), you'll have a good idea of your eligibility for student assistance.

I don't think I'll be eligible. Should I still apply?

Yes. School is more expensive than you might think, and there is more financial aid available than you may know about.

When should I apply for financial aid?

You should apply for financial aid at the same time you're applying for admission to college or university. Each school may have different filing procedures and deadlines, so pay attention to what's expected. As a general rule, apply as soon after January 1st as you can. You do not have to be admitted to any college or university to apply for financial aid (only to receive your award).

What will happen after I apply?

In summary, the FAFSA and other forms you submit will determine your need. Need is determined by subtracting your EFC from the total cost of attendance (COA). From there, the student aid office of the school you choose to attend will put together the best package of loans, grants and scholarships. They'll give you all this information in an award letter.

What's the difference between grants, scholarships, bursaries and fellowships?

Grants are usually based on financial need and they are strictly academic. Scholarships are based on merit and they apply to pursuits beyond academic. For example, they may include sports and athletic scholarships, music scholarships, etc. Bursary is a term that is interchangeable with scholarship, and fellowships are given to graduate students only. None of these require repayment.

What if I'm awarded a private scholarship after I receive my award letter?

You must report this to the financial aid office of your school. They may need to adjust your award accordingly.

What if I decide to quit school?

You'll need to make arrangements with your financial aid office concerning your loans, interest deferment and many other issues.

What if I need more money than I am awarded?

You may be able to do some negotiation, particularly if your financial information has changed since you submitted your forms. There are also other loans to apply for, including private loans and unsubsidized loans.

Can I compare financial aid packages from different schools?

Yes, you can. However, make sure you compare all factors, especially tuition and cost of attendance.

When do I get my money?

Usually, the money will be given to you during the registration process or at the start of each semester.

Do I need to fill out the FAFSA every year?

Yes. Your awards may change dramatically even if your financial information does not change. This may be due to any of a number of factors including changes to the law and the level and performance you've reached in school.

How do I apply for a Stafford loan?

Complete and submit the FAFSA, and the school's aid office will determine your eligibility. You'll borrow either directly through the school or through a lending agency, depending on the status of your school.

How do I get a Pell grant?

Fill out the FAFSA to qualify.

Does it matter which lender I select?

Absolutely. Don't be fooled into thinking that your bank will give you the best rates. There are a number of banks that specialize in student loans.

How do I get work study?

In most cases, work study programs are offered as part of your financial aid package. If you didn't get work study and you were hoping for it, contact the financial aid office of your school.

Who is ultimately responsible for my student loans?

You. Not your parents, not the government and not anyone else. Parents are responsible for PLUS loans and other loans they take out in their own name, but that's all.

I am also a parent. Can I get financial aid to cover childcare costs?

You can contact your financial aid office to find out if they have any assistance programs for parents. Many colleges and universities have childcare programs with a limited number of openings. If they have no room, they may be able to direct you to other local openings.

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