More than half of all college students receive some type of financial aid for their expenses. Many college applicants are eligible for financial assistance for one of the following reasons:
- Excellent grades and / or test scores.
- Outstanding ability in some specific activities such as athletics, music or art.
- Financial circumstances of the family: students from families with a modest income or from families with high expenses (several children in college at same time). College grants, state and federal grants, low interest loans, and work-study programs help these families meet the financial need of the student. If the standard methodology shows that a student needs aid, many colleges will try to provide the difference between what the family can provide and the cost of the school. Not all colleges meet 100% need.
Financial Aid Forms
- The best source of aid is the college itself. Since many colleges have their own financial aid forms to supplement the national forms, families who anticipate the need for financial aid should be sure to request the appropriate forms from each of the colleges to which they are applying. In addition to aid available through the financial aid office, there are often scholarships available through honors programs, activities, athletics, or department offices. Contact the financial aid office for information.
- The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) must be completed in order to be eligible for federal aid. The FAFSA may not be submitted before January 1st of the senior year, however, you may access this application in the fall of your student's senior year at www.fafsa.ed.gov and begin entering your tax information early. The FAFSA is completed and then submitted directly to the Federal Student Aid Program online as soon after January 1st as possible. The FAFSA is free.
- The College Board CSS Profile is submitted directly to the College Scholarship Service in Princeton, New Jersey, and their evaluation is made available to colleges you designate. It is your responsibility to check with your college to find out if they require the Profile and if so, also check the deadline. There is a fee to send the Profile. You may access the CSS Profile at www.collegeboard.com.
- The Financial Aid Officer at the colleges where you apply will be happy to respond to your questions; do not hesitate to ask. To ensure confidentiality, applications for aid are sent by parents directly to the appropriate agency.
- Almost all colleges will require a copy of your IRS Form 1040 and all attached schedules. It would be helpful if you had these forms prepared as soon after the end of the year as possible.
Types of Financial Aid
"Work-Study" and "Assistantships"—part-time on campus employment programs funded by the federal government for which students must generally demonstrate need.
"Student Stafford Loans"—may be subsidized while the recipient is a student and are repayable after the recipient ceases to be a student. Interest rates are more favorable than the market rate.
"Parent Stafford Loans"—made available to all parents. Repayment of these loans may begin immediately, though many provide for an interest only payment while the student is in college. Interest rates are more favorable than the market rate.
"Grants" "Scholarships" and "Stipends"—are outright gifts to the student. They do not have to be repaid.
Searching for a Scholarship—Beware
Hundreds of scholarship services are on the market, but many are scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently launched a project to alert consumers about fraudulent search services. The FTC warns students to beware if the scholarship service:
- Guarantees that a student has won a scholarship
- Pledges that this scholarship information is not available anywhere else
- Requests payment before they give the scholarship
- Claims "a nationl foundation has selected you to receive a scholarship" or "you are a finalist" in a contest the student never entered.
Scholarship scams usually have a particular set of characteristics. Watch out for these warning signs:
- Any type of fee
- Guaranteed winnings
- Everybody is eligible
- No telephone number
- Mail drop for return address
- Time pressure
- Notification by phone
The following is a list of web sites that may be helpful in your search for scholarships: