Financial Aid Information
A Guide for Students and Parents
A Parent's Guide to Financial Aid
Your child is worried about getting into college—but you're probably more concerned about paying for it. Here's the good news: there is plenty of financial assistance for families paying for college. You just need to know how to get it.
The prospect of applying for financial aid can seem intimidating—especially the first time. But the financial aid process is not as difficult as you think. All it takes is time, a little organization—and a lot of paperwork/online forms.
Financial aid packages can contain any combination of the three basic types of aid: loans, grants and work-study:
- Loans may come from the federal or state government, from the college itself, or from other sources. They must be paid back by you or your child (depending on the type of loan). One common type of loan, the Stafford Loan, is subsidized by the federal government. As a result, your child doesn't have to begin making payments on this type of loan until several months after he or she is out of college.
- Grants or scholarships may also come from the government, the college, or other organizations. They are gifts and don't need to be paid back. Need-based grants are based solely on your child's financial need. Merit-based grants or scholarships may be given to students who have special talents or achievements in some area (such as academics, sports, music, or leadership). Merit scholarships are not limited to students who have financial need, although they could make up part of the financial aid package for students who do have need.
- Work-study requires your child to work part-time at an on-campus job once he or she arrives on campus. This aid is given directly to your child in the form of a paycheck. Usually, it is up to your child to find a work-study job—although the financial aid or other office will often help to place students.
Comparing Financial Aid Packages!
As discussed above, the amount of money in a financial aid package depends on your child's EFC and the cost of the college. If your EFC is the same at each college, you'll pay the same at each college. That's one reason not to cross an expensive college off your child's list until you explore financial aid possibilities.
There are two main points to look at when assessing a financial aid package: whether the aid meets your child's demonstrated financial need, and what proportion of the package is loans versus grants and work.