Applying for Financial Aid

The cost of a college education may seem out of reach, but there are options, including personal savings and investments, scholarships, and potential assistance from the government. Depending on your household income level, you may qualify for a package of grants and loans to help cover the expenses of a college degree.

In order to receive financial aid for college, you have to apply each year. You can apply online at http://www.FAFSA.ed.gov1, Opens in a new tab, and the free application works for virtually all two- and four-year colleges, universities and career schools in the country.

Not everyone who applies receives aid. Grants and loan packages are awarded according to income level and the cost of the school you’re applying to. But you can get a pretty good idea ahead of time how much you might be eligible for by using the federal government’s eligibility calculator1, Opens in a new tab. This can also make it easier when it comes time to actually apply.

After You Apply

Soon after applying online, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). It will have all the information you submitted when you applied. Look it over carefully. If there are any mistakes, you’ll be able to reopen your application and amend it.

You will also receive an Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This will be in the upper right hand corner of your SAR. This is the amount the government believes your household should be able to pay for education. Your school will use this number to figure out how much aid you will receive. For instance, if your EFC is $5,000 and the school costs $10,000 per year, you would be eligible for $5,000 in aid.

Other Sources of Federal Student Aid

In addition to standard federal grants and loans, you might qualify for other forms of assistance. Some examples of students who could be eligible for more federal aid include:

  • Veterans and their dependents
  • Some students in medical training
  • Students interested in doing public service in exchange for aid

Other Sources of Aid

The federal government isn’t the only place to find help. States and even counties and cities often open grant and scholarship programs. Civic groups, such as local chambers of commerce, do as well. Check with the financial aid office at the school the student plans to attend. Also check the student’s high school counselor’s office for aid sources.

In addition, you can find grants and scholarships in your state for the schools you are interested in by using the following resources:

Source: Visa’s Practical Money Skills for LifeTM 1, Opens in a new tab