Financial aid is a blanket term meaning different things for different people. Unfortunately, it is often used a little too broadly for my taste. Here are some types of "aid" that may be considered "financial aid".
- Need-based aid
- Merit aid
- Military aid
- International aid
- Tax benefits
- Foster care
- State aid
and, unfortunately, for some schools...
- Work Study
You may be able to access help from a handful of these different types of aid. Here are some steps to take:
Fill out the FAFSA - it becomes available on October 1st each year for the next year starting with fall semester. So, on Oct. 1, 2021, it opened up for August 2022 fall semester and the rest of that school year. The FAFSA determines whether you will be able to get a federal grant or subsidized student loan. (Subsidized just means that the government pays your interest while you're still in school.) You also have to fill out the FAFSA to access Federal Student Loans. Even if you don't plan to take any student loans, some schools require you to fill out the FAFSA to be eligible for merit aid.
See if you need to complete the CSS Profile - Some schools also require this more detailed student financial aid form. They use it to make aid decisions.
Check with your state - see if they have special aid programs. In Florida, we have Bright Futures which is a program that may pay some or all tuition at Florida state schools if you meet the qualifications. Most people know about Bright Futures, but not many people are familiar with the list of other grants and awards available to certain students living in Florida.
See if you qualify for a tax credit - both the American Opportunity Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit are available to families within certain income limits who meet all of the qualifications. This money would be accounted for when you file your annual tax return for years that you incur qualified education expenses.
Find out how school's grant aid awards - Some give a lot of need-based aid, some give more merit aid, and some give both. Fill out each school's Net Price Calculator to see how much aid you might be eligible for.
Make it easier on yourself - Ask me how we can work together to make this process sooooo much easier and have resources at your fingertips to know which schools might give you how much of what types of aid!
Apply for Private Scholarships - lots of them! (I can help with this too)
What else? - Are you interested in the military or Americorp? Have you been in the foster program? There are all kinds of programs out there that you might be able to take advantage of. Keep you eyes and ears open and ask around!
Expect Award Letters - after you have been accepted to a particular school. They may come with your acceptance, soon after, or much later. Check your email, your application portal and your snail mail. Make sure you fully understand how much the school is going to cost you for all four years and you know how you're going to pay for every cent of it. If loans are involved, add up what the total loan payment will amount to and compare that to your income. Make sure it's not going to make you financially uncomfortable or limit your ability to accomplish other financial goals.
Accept an offer - make sure it's the one that makes the most sense for you!