There are basically three categories of financial aid:
1. Grants – money that is given to the student, usually because of financial need
2. Scholarships – money that is awarded because of exceptional academic achievement, an outstanding talent or skill, and /or financial need
3. Loans – borrowed money that needs to be repaid
The primary source of financial aid for college expenses is Federal Student Aid from the U.S. Department of Education. Please visit the links below for the federal financial aid application (FAFSA) and more information about this aid. Many colleges and universities require their incoming students to complete the FAFSA in order to award scholarships and offer discounts or loans. The FAFSA becomes available January 1st each year and requires information from your federal tax return for the previous year. You may begin the application using estimated tax return figures and then update the application once your tax return has been filed. Complete the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.gov.
After you complete the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). A copy of the SAR is also sent to the colleges you designate. The SAR will inform you of your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). You EFC is the amount determined that you can afford to pay for your son’s/daughter’s education the following year. If the cost of the college is more that your EFC, you have a financial need and should be eligible for financial aid. This aid, however, may come in the form of low interest loans.
Funding Education Beyond High School - detailed information on the federal aid program
In addition to the FAFSA, some private colleges and scholarship programs also require submission of the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. The CSS PROFILE is a financial aid application service of the College Board. Many of its member colleges/universities and scholarship programs use the information provided on PROFILE to help them award nonfederal student aid funds. The CSS is not required by all schools. Check the financial aid site of your college/university to learn if an application is necessary. For more information on the CSS PROFILE, click here.