The College Financial Aid Process
The college financial aid process can change from year to year, as new laws and forms are developed. As we become aware of information, we will pass it along to you. We’ve divided the kinds of college financial aid into need-based and merit-based awards. The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) explains the following about the college financial aid process. Every November VSAC sends a representative to Vermont high schools to explain the process of applying for financial aid and to go over any recent changes. In addition to following the VSAC’s explanation on college financial aid, we’ve also embedded a video from Ben Kaplan who has sound advice on how to find scholarships. The following principles and practices and about college financial aid remain intact from year to year:
Need-Based College Financial Aid
Need-based aid is determined by your family’s overall financial picture. All students complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in January or February of the senior year. This form uses both your family’s and your tax information and includes information about the total number in your family, including how many are in college, and personal and family savings and assets. The U.S. Department of Education oversees this program that awards all federal student aid. They calculate your annual “Expected Family Contribution,” what they consider your family can afford to pay for your college education. The difference between what a college cost and your family contribution is known as “Demonstrated Financial Need.” Individual colleges, however, are free to interpret your financial information themselves. While your eligibility for federal loans won’t change, your financial aid packages may vary greatly from college to college (see below). Private colleges that award their own institutional financial aid generally ask you to complete an additional form, either their own or the CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile. They may take home equity and other factors into account when figuring your financial need.”
When it comes to paying for college, persistence pays off. Ben Kaplan of the CityofCollegeDreams.org interviewed with Kimberly Maus of BetterTV.com to discuss ways to shave thousands of dollars off a college bill. Ben speaks from experience, as he himself was awarded roughly $90,000 in scholarships to help him pay for his Harvard degree.
Featured Video -How to Find Scholarships
Merit-Based College Financial Aid
Merit-based aid is scholarship money given on the basis of some kind of merit: academic, artistic, athletic, or leadership, for example. If you receive merit-based aid from a college, you should be careful to note if there are any strings attached. Ask the following questions and consider the following items when it comes to merit-based college financial aid and scholarships.
- Do you need to maintain a certain Grade Point Average?
- If the aid is related to an athletic skill, for example, what happens if you break your leg and can no longer play the sport?
- If you are awarded financial aid, you will be given what is called a “financial aid package.” Your package may include some of the following components: student loans, on-campus employment, college grants, scholarships, parent loans, and family gifts. If you are applying to more than one college, you will want to compare the financial aid packages. The combination and the amount of the categories mentioned may differ for you at each college. If you’ve been accepted into several colleges, this may impact your decision of which college to attend.
For more ideas on how to pay for college consider also Peter Dunn’s book Avoid Student Loans: A guide for maximizing scholarship earnings and making smart financial decisions during college
to make college financial aid clearer and easier to navigate.