10 Things To Know About Financial Aid
Forget Quantum Physics—Financial Aid can feel like the toughest subject to wrap your head around!
From the Pell Grant and merit-based aid to Stafford Loans and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), we have 10 things you need to know about getting funding for higher education.
1. You can submit the FAFSA any time on or after Oct. 1.
Until recently, you had to wait until Jan. 1 to fill out the FAFSA, but the deadline has been moved back to Oct. 1. You no longer need to wait for your parents to do their taxes but rather can use information from an earlier tax year.
2. Financial aid is usually first come, first served.
Get your FAFSA in as soon as possible. This is also true with work-study programs, as many of the best on-campus jobs are scooped up quickly.
3. There is now an IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
This new tool can automatically import your parents’ tax information. No more transferring information manually!
4. Merit-based aid is different than need-based aid.
Merit-based aid is based on academics, athletics, community service work or exceptional talents, such as playing an instrument. Need-based aid is based on your ability to pay.
5. You should look at the net cost of attending a school.
When considering the cost of schools, make sure you’re looking at your net cost—the amount you’ll have to pay after financial aid has been applied. A college with a higher sticker price may actually cost you less than a lower-priced school once you factor in scholarships, loans and work-study.
6. Scholarships can be in your own backyard.
Start your free search online through sources such as fastweb.com, but don’t forget to check your local Rotary or Kiwanis, your parents’ employers, and other local organizations.
7. You can start applying for scholarships in high school.
Do a search online for “college scholarships for high school students,” and you’ll be shocked at how much money you can apply for right now. There are also essay and video contests for college money!
8. Financial aid can come from many sources.
Loans, grants (which are typically need-based) and scholarships (which are typically merit-based) can come from the federal or state government, the college you attend, or nonprofit or private organizations. Federal aid can include grants (e.g., the Pell Grant and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant), loans (e.g., Perkins Loans or Direct Loans) and work-study.
9. Financial aid can get taken away.
Merit-based aid may be contingent on keeping your grades up, and athletic scholarships may be rescinded if you become seriously injured. In some cases, financial aid can be taken away if you receive a scholarship from your own efforts.
10. Financial aid can cover more than tuition.
Room and board, supplies, fees, textbooks, transportation and even personal expenses can often be covered by financial aid.
Thanks to financial aid, almost any student who wants to attend college can find a way to make it happen. Don’t let sticker shock scare you away from obtaining a degree. Help is out there if you know where to look.