Applying for financial aid can be a daunting task, but overall it’s not a difficult process. You can fill out your FAFSA® form to apply for financial student aid either online or through the paper form. You can even get the forms through your school’s financial aid office.
As you’re filling out your financial aid information, you can get estimates on your aid. There is both need and non-need based financial aid available.
Understanding Need-Based vs. Non-Need-Based
When you’re estimating how much financial aid you’ll get, you need to understand the need-based and non-need-based options.
First, the financial aid staff looks at your Cost of Attendance for the particular school or schools you’re interested in. They next take into consideration your Expected Family Contribution.
Subtracting the Expected Family Contribution from the Cost of Attendance determines your need-based financial aid. From there, the school determines your non-need-based aid by taking the Cost of Attendance and subtracting the already-awarded financial aid you have received.
Calculating Non-Need-Based Aid
When calculating your non-need-based financial aid amount, you need to look at the actual numbers. Assuming that your Cost of Attendance is $17,000 and you have already received $5,500 in need-based financial aid, there is a total of $11,500 that you can still be awarded in non-need-based financial aid.
To do the calculations, you need to know how much you have already been awarded and how much the Cost of Attendance for your chosen school is.
There are several options for non-need-based financial aid. There are federal, state, and even local financial aid options that are not need-based. The federal programs you should consider include:
- Federal PLUS loans
- Direct Unsubsidized loans
- Teacher Education Access for College and Higher Education Grants
It’s important to remember that with non-need-based financial aid, you are responsible to repay the loans. These loans are for individuals or families who cannot pay the whole cost of higher education, but have either maxed out their need-based options or do not qualify for need-based financial aid. Non-need based loans generally have a higher interest rate than need-based loans.
You will have to repay all or part of a federal grant if:
- You withdrew early from the program for which the grant was given to you.
- You received outside scholarships or grants that reduced your need for federal student aid.
- For a TEACH Grant, you did not meet the requirements of your TEACH Grant service obligation.
- Your enrollment status changed in a way that reduced your eligibility for your grant (for instance, if you switch from full-time enrollment to part-time, your grant amount will be reduced.
Are grants and scholarships non-need-based aid?
Grants and scholarships are also non-need-based aid available to students. These types of student aid are often called “gift aid” because they are free money – financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid. Grants are often need-based, while scholarships are usually merit-based.
Where do grants and scholarships come from?
Grants and scholarships can come from the federal government, your state government, your college or career school, or a private or nonprofit organization. Make sure you apply for grants and or scholarships that you might be eligible for and be sure to meet the application deadline. You can find scholarships at FastWeb.
What should I do to maintain the scholarship or grant?
The requirements for maintaining a scholarship or grant vary from program to program. Visit the website relevant to your specific scholarship or grant to ensure that you meet the requirements for maintaining eligibility for that aid program.
Filling out FAFSA®
Because your need-based and some non-need-based financial aid options are calculated by your FAFSA® application, it’s important that you fill out the form properly. You will need to know the school(s) you are planning to attend, as the school(s) will consider the amount of financial aid you qualify for. It’s also crucial that you have your or your parents’ tax forms and financial information available as you fill out the forms. This information helps the financial aid office determine how much need-based aid you qualify for, as well as what non-need-based options you may also qualify for.
As you’re getting ready to go to college, make sure you search for the various student aid available. Fill out your FAFSA® form and apply for scholarships and grants before the deadline. Keep in mind not only the federal deadlines for your FAFSA® form but also any deadlines the school you’re interested in has. or your FAFSA® form, but also any deadlines the school you’re interested in has.