Financial Aid FAQs

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

Get answers to some of the most common financial aid questions, such as:

  • What is financial aid?
  • Why is financial aid important?
  • Who qualifies for financial aid?
  • How do I apply for federal financial aid?
  • When do I apply for financial aid?
  • How often do I have to complete the FAFSA?

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Frequently Asked Questions on Financial Aid

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. 

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?

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?

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?

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.

Financial Aid FAQs

My Journey On-Demand Session

For most students and parents, calculating the cost of college is a primary and stressful factor in determining which school is the right school.

This session will help you gain the clarity to make confident decisions by learning about the financial aid process, including timelines and major action points, as well as how to find a wealth of information from the Federal Student Aid website. 

Learn More About Paying for College

ACT provides comprehensive college planning resources to help you make informed decisions about your educational and professional path. Explore our paying for college resources to gain valuable insights on financial aid, scholarship tips and much more!