Complete Guide to Financial Aid and the FAFSA

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Kristen Kuchar

By Kristen Kuchar

June 23, 2020

Financial aid is money to help you pay for college. Financial aid can come from your college, federal programs, state programs and even private sources. Financial aid includes grants, scholarships, student loans and the work-study program. 

What is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is exactly what it sounds like – money to assist in paying for college. Financial aid could be grants and scholarships, federal student loans (that need to be repaid, plus interest), or an opportunity to participate in a work-study program.

Use our Financial Aid Calculator to estimate your expected family contribution (EFC) and financial need based on student and parent income and assets, family size, number of children in college, age of the older parent and the student’s dependency status.

Financial Aid Eligibility

When it comes to federal student financial aid, there are many factors that could impact the types and amounts of financial aid you can receive, including your Expected Family Contribution.

Eligibility for Financial Aid

Amount of Financial Aid

Everything You Need to Know about the FAFSA

Most people applying for college have heard of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This application form is crucial to securing any financial aid from the government, including federal grants that you do not pay back, access to the work study program, and federal loans. The FAFSA is also used to apply for state grants and financial aid from most colleges and universities.

Common FAFSA Mistakes

When filling out the FAFSA, be careful not to make a mistake. An error when filling out the FAFSA can impact whether you are eligible for financial aid and the amount of aid you receive.

Financial Aid Award Letters

After a college assembles a financial aid package for a student, it will send the student a financial aid award letter or notification. The award letter provides information about the types and amounts of financial aid awarded to the student.

How to Get More Financial Aid 

There are ways to increase the amount of financial aid you receive. You can position your income and assets to maximize your eligibility for need-based financial aid. You can appeal to your college to try to receive more financial aid. 

Can Financial Aid Be Taken Away?

Financial aid is a wonderful thing but there’s another side to it, too. Financial aid has misconceptions and can be confusing, and it has the ability to be taken away. 

A good place to start:

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