What You Need to Know & Do to Get Financial Aid

mini college graduation cap on cash I’m not in the habit of re-posting my podcast episodes on the blog, but this one is so timely. Here is a quick outline.  If you want to learn more, you can listen to the episode here or download the episode from iTunes.

What is financial aid?

People use this term to mean any money that doesn’t come from their own pocket, but that’s not exactly right.  Financial aid is based on need. The term “financial aid” should not be used to refer to non-need based aid.  Scholarships, tuition waivers, institutional grants, merit aid, etc. will help lower one’s tuition bill, but aren’t technically financial aid. Financial aid does not mean free money.  In fact, the most common form of financial aid is student loans.  Yes, financial aid may include grants which do not need to be repaid, but it may also include work study, parent, and student loans.

Who will get financial aid?

Lots of people.  Even middle-class and upper-middle-class families receive financial aid. Financial aid is based in part on your family income / assets.  The other factor in determining financial aid is the cost of the college or university education. Financial aid is intended to cover the gap between the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the cost of a year’s education at a particular institution.  A family with an EFC of $20,000 may not qualify for financial aid at a state university with an expected annual cost of $18,000.  However, that same family would qualify for financial aid at the university that costs $50,000 a year to attend.

How do we know if we qualify?

There are some online tools to help you estimate cost and financial aid, but you won’t know if you qualify until you apply.  The first step in the application process is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

FAFSA Basics

Who – Families with high school seniors (graduating this school year) and those with kids already in college.

When– The FAFSA application opens on January 1.  The sooner you submit your FAFSA, the closer to the front of the financial aid “line” you are.

Where- fafsa.gov

This is a FREE application.  If you want to pay for help, pay someone to do your taxes for you.  Once you have your tax forms, completing the FAFSA is a matter of filling in information.  In my opinion, this isn’t something you need to pay someone to do.  They can’t “find” you extra money; they will just enter your numbers and hit the submit button.  You can do this. For more details on how to get financial aid and some helpful hints on how to submit your FAFSA in January, even if you haven’t done your taxes yet, listen to the podcast.   (Please, do me a favor.  If you like the show, leave us a rating and review on iTunes.  This will help our show come up when others search for this information.)  ]]>

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