Types of Financial Aid

There is a variety of financial aid available when it comes to paying for school.

The primary types of financial aid are:

  1. Scholarships
  2. Grants
  3. Work-Study
  4. Loans

A scholarship is merit-based; it can be based on location, skills or family relations. It is free and does not need to be paid back.

A grant is usually given by an organization or business to promote a special goal –  perhaps, helping disadvantages students pay for college (i.e. the Pell Grant). It does not need to be paid back.

The work-study program offers college employment. This money can be used for various costs related to college attendance.

A loan is money borrowed by the student or parents. The principal balance plus interest must be repaid.

Government loans are differentiated between subsidized and non-subsidized loans. With a subsidized loan, the government agrees to pay the interest while the student is in school. With the non-subsidized loan, interest accumulates while the student is in school and the student must pay the interest upon graduation.

Apply for Financial Aid

The financial aid you are eligible for is based on your economic circumstances, your performance as a student and your further skills. Almost everybody is entitled to some type of ais. You just need to find out which one applies to you. If a loan is applicable, you must choose the one that best fits your future economic conditions as you foresee them.

  1. The first and main step to apply for financial aid is to complete the FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This form is the only one needed to apply for state, federal and college specific financial aid. If you don't fill in and submit the FAFSA you do not have access to any loan, grant, scholarship for students or other kind of financial aid provided by the federal government. You can easily access this form online at www.fafsa.ed.gov
  2. You will need a Security Social Number. If you don't have one, you can request at your local office for Social Security Administration or online at www.ssa.gov/pubs/10002.html
  3. If you apply for FAFSA online, you will need a PIN (Personal Identification Number) to use as your electronic signature for the FAFSA. You can request the PIN number at www.pin.ed.gov. After checking and verifying the information by Social Security Administration, a PIN will be generated. You will receive your PIN by US Postal Service (after 7-10 days) or e-mail (after 3 days).
The PIN gives you access to:
  1. Complete FAFSA online.
  2. Electronically sign your FAFSA form online
  3. Access and read the information and status of your FAFSA and your Student Aid Report (SAR).
  4. Make online changes and corrections on your FAFSA form.
  5. Complete the FAFSA Renewal (every year you have to fill out and submit this form).
  6. Access your Federal Student Aid information on the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) website.

Student Aid report (SAR)

Student Aid Report (SAR) summarizes the information you completed on your FAFSA and will include the Estimated Family Contribution. Review the SAR to make sure it is accurate and carefully read the instructions on how to send the SAR to the Financial Aid Office of the schools or colleges you have chosen. They will contact you and let you know which economic aid options are available to you.

Award Letter

After sending the SAR you will receive an Award Letter from your educational institution in which is stated what type of financial aid you are eligible for. Also, the amount of money you can receive by scholarships, grants, federal or private loans or working-study programs (if you have applied for a work-study program) is provided. Award letters usually include the following information:

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC): the same for all the schools you have applied for.
  • Cost of Attendance: The cost of education will be different for each school.
  • Financial Need: This information varies from school to school, because the cost of attendance is different

    Generally you can easily calculate your financial need by the following equation:

    Cost of College Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need

  • Financial Aid Package: types of aid you are eligible for.

Before you are agreed upon the award letter and accepting the financial aid they offer you, you should carefully review the terms and conditions. If you have applied for enrolment in several universities wait until you have received the rest of the award letters, so you can compare the offers and see which suits you best. Sometimes it may come as a surprise that an expensive university will in fact give you a very good financial aid program, especially if you happen to be a brilliant student.

Remember that you don’t have to accept everything offered by the school, but if you decline, the school will not replace it with other types of aid. Maybe, under specific financial and private circumstances, you can negotiate work-study programs and student loans, but grants and scholarships are not negotiable.

Don't forget that there are deadlines for applying to FAFSA. Find more information on the website of FAFSA, www.fafsa.ed.gov.