Before attending college you may find yourself asking one of the most important questions that many students ask themselves. How am I going to pay for tuition? Luckily for you, and everyone else, many colleges have a financial aid office that can help you determine the best available options for covering school costs. Let’s find out more about how to maximize your options and potentially save yourself thousands of dollars in long-term interest.
What Is Need-Based Financial Aid?
Need-based financial aid is a great resource for students whose families cannot afford to pay for their college education. Two pieces of information determine how much need-based financial aid you can receive: Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the Cost of Attendance (CoA) at the universities and colleges you are thinking about attending. Financial need is calculated by taking the Cost of Attendance and subtracting the Expected Family Contribution.
Federal and State Aid
If you want to apply for need-based financial aid with the federal government, you will need to fill out and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) application. After filling out this application, you might be able to access financial assistance such as federal education loans and Pell grants, as well as federal work-study programs.
Depending on where you live, your FAFSA® application might also be used for state aid, although this is not always the case. In some states, you must file a separate application for all state aid or for certain state scholarships. To make sure you apply for all the financial aid available, you’ll need to research if your state uses the FAFSA® application or if you’ll need to file a separate form. If you’re trying to find out what application to file, contact your state’s Department of Education.
Need-Based Financial Aid and Merit
In addition to government loans and grants, you can pay for college education with need-based scholarships and institutional aid. Some scholarships might include a merit requirement, even if they are primarily need-based. If you are going to apply for a need-based scholarship, carefully research whether it has a merit requirement before you submit an application.
Institutional aid might also include a merit requirement. For example, you could be eligible for aid from your institution if you maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) or participate in a university activity. Fortunately, finding out the merit requirements for institutional aid is relatively easy. A few weeks after filing your FAFSA application, you will receive a financial aid award letter that outlines the different types of aid for which you are eligible. By reading your award letter, you can determine what institutional aid you can receive and if it has merit requirements.
Special Circumstances and Aid Appeals
In special circumstances, students might be able to appeal their dependency status to get more aid. Overriding your dependency status might lower your EFC and increase your need-based aid. There are several circumstances in which you might need to override your dependency status:
- Your parents are in jail or prison.
- You have been abandoned by your parents.
- You come from an abusive family.
- You cannot find your parents.
You will need to apply to override your dependency status directly with your school’s financial aid office.
If your financial aid award letter isn’t enough to pay for college, you can appeal this decision with your school. First, you should get in touch with your financial aid office and let them know your intentions. Then, write your appeal letter and submit the document. Follow up with your aid office to make sure they received and are reviewing your letter.
Next, you should receive a decision about your appeal. This can take more than a month depending on your school. Finally, if your appeal is accepted, you’ll receive additional aid.
If you’re trying to decide how to pay for college, need-based financial aid can be a good solution. While your aid might not pay for your full education, it can make covering the costs of your degree much easier and less stressful.