Financial Aid FAQs

Questions about paying for college? Get the answers you need.

What is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is money given or loaned to you to help pay for the cost of your higher education. So, don’t be discouraged if the cost of continuing your education seems too high at first. Financial aid can help you achieve your education and career goals. 

Why is financial aid important?
Financial aid is an important way to offset the cost of college. For many students it may be the only way to pay for and attend a college or university. With proper planning and cost comparison, higher education can be affordable for you.

Who qualifies for financial aid?
Most students enrolled in higher education qualify for and depend on financial aid–in fact, 85% of students at 4-year institutions and 78% of students at 2-year institutions receive financial assistance (National Center for Education Statistics). However, not all financial aid has the same requirements for eligibility and is separated into two categories: need-based and merit-based.

  • Need-based financial aid may be offered to you by the state government, US federal government, and/or colleges and universities based on your family’s ability to pay for college. Need-based financial aid is typically given in the form of grants (do not have to be repaid) and loans (do have to be repaid). 
  • Merit-based financial aid is usually offered without regard to your financial need and is often awarded based on academic achievement or special skills (arts, athletics, etc.). Merit-based financial aid is typically given in the form of a scholarship or award. 

How do I apply for federal financial aid?
The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application provides you with access to state and federal aid as well as financial assistance from many colleges.

When do I apply for financial aid?
It’s never too early to start exploring financial aid options. In some cases, funds may be limited and administered on a first-come, first-served basis. You should complete and submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after it becomes available on October 1. Check the FAFSA website for final deadlines.

How often do I have to complete the FAFSA?
You must resubmit the FAFSA each year you are enrolled in a college or university. Submitting your applications for financial aid and scholarships, as well as your ACT scores, early can make a critical difference in the financial support you receive for college, by ensuring you are considered for first-come, first-served financial aid. Scholarship and grant deadlines may differ from the FAFSA deadlines. Be sure to mark these deadlines on your calendar.