What Does Financial Aid Cover?

You’ve probably heard that financial aid can help you and your family pay for your college education. But you have no idea what it actually covers. If this scenario sounds familiar, then you have come to the right place! 

First, let’s start by giving you a clear overview of what financial aid is. 

What is Financial Aid?

Financial aid covers anything related to the Cost of Attendance (COA). It’s composed of grants, work-study, scholarships, and loans. Financial aid covers any expenses related to your college attendance and education. From tuition to the new computer you need to do all your research and write your term papers. 

Most available financial aid requires the completion of a Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

About 75% of families complete the FAFSA® form. The other 25% are leaving behind millions (if not billions) of dollars by not finishing the application. Don’t miss out –  complete your FAFSA®! You can complete the application in less than 7 minutes, on our free, user-friendly, and fast online platform.

Cost of Attendance 

The cost of attendance is the average cost you have to pay to attend a particular school for a single academic year (Fall through Spring semester). COA plays a huge role in determining your financial aid award. 

Most colleges provide a cost of attendance report that contains the cost of the following information:

  • Books  
  • Fees
  • Housing 
  • Loan Origination
  • Meals 
  • Personal 
  • Transportation
  • Tuition

After your financial aid gets distributed to your school to cover tuition and school paid expenses, any leftover money will get reimbursed directly to you. The reimbursement can get deposited directly to your bank account as long as you include your direct deposit information in your student account portal. Otherwise, you will receive a check in the mail. Note: Colleges/universities adjust the COA every year to reflect any changes to these expenses. Factors like where you go to school and the housing option you choose, determine your total COA.

Spend your reimbursement responsibly 

This one is fairly simple as long as you prioritize. Let’s put it this way: Prioritizing school, over a social life will give you the GPA you want while also minimizing your student debt. Prioritize spending your money on books, or investing it into a savings account. This will save you from spending thousands of dollars on Miami for Spring Break or going to a fun (but expensive) music festival with friends.

Many students use their financial aid refunds on Spring Break vacation expenses, concert tickets, festivals, etc. Don’t get me wrong, if you have the funds to afford the spring break of your dreams, by all means, go ahead. However, if you know that you can’t afford a ritzy vacation unless you tap into your unused financial aid, then I suggest you reconsider your decision. To learn more about financial aid refunds and what you can use it for, check out this article.


We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at fafsa.gov.