For many families, a significant factor in the college process centers around financial aid. In the next section, we would like to identify some of the key pieces of applying, explain how colleges factor financial aid into admissions and award packages, and describe how the typical financial aid package might be developed. These policies will vary from school to school, so we urge you to read the materials provided by each college and to contact their offices if you have questions.
- We encourage everyone to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) soon after October 1st. Even if you do not demonstrate financial need, the FAFSA will establish your eligibility for most federal, state, and institutional aid. Regardless of income, students and parents are eligible for low interest rate loans.
- File your financial aid forms early (October/November) since some schools deplete their funds early.
Sources of Financial Aid Available:
- Federal Government
- State Government
Types of Financial Aid
There are 2 types of financial aid: merit-based and need-based. Merit-based aid is offered based on academic, athletic, artistic, or other criteria evaluated in the admission process. There are also many outside organizations that offer awards based on those same criteria as well as community service, character, and leadership qualities. The most common merit awards are college-sponsored scholarships, government-sponsored scholarships, and/or athletic scholarships for talented Division I & II athletes.
Need-based aid is the most common form of financial aid. All colleges and universities require a student to submit a FAFSA to be considered for need-based aid. Some colleges also require their own financial aid forms in addition to the FAFSA. Every family considering to apply for need-based financial aid should start to research early in the junior year to determine what their approximate eligibility will be (Estimated Family Contribution or EFC). Every college has a net-price calculator on their website to help you understand your final costs. PHEAA.org has a ton of resources to help you plan and figure out what you can afford.
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): A form that is required for everyone seeking federal and state aid. By completing this form, you are applying for all types of Federal and State Aid. The FAFSA can be completed online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Eligibility will be determined within 72 hours. FILE EARLY! The PIN number has been replaced by the FSA ID. It is recommended that students and filing-parents create their two FSA IDs prior to beginning the FAFSA. Visit http://fsaid.ed.gov for more information.
CSS Profile: Offered by the College Scholarship Service (CSS) through the College Board and must be filed online at http://student.collegeboard.org/profile. You can also find a list of colleges that require the profile on that page. The profile is used by scholarship programs to award private funds. You may file the Profile at the same time as the FAFSA, starting October 1st. Check the deadlines at your colleges and file no later than two weeks before your earliest deadline specified by your colleges or programs.
Important Telephone Numbers/Websites
Pennsylvania State Grant/Loan Division (PHEAA)
(800)692-7392 or www.pheaa.org
Federal Student Programs (FAFSA)
(800)422-3243 or www.fafsa.ed.gov
CSS Profile Information
(305)829-9793 or www.collegeboard.org
Sources of Aid
Federal Government: www.fafsa.ed.gov
- The federal government offers a variety of grants, work-study, and loan programs.
- Federal programs include both need-based and non-need based financial aid.
- Many federal programs are administered through colleges, check with your financial aid officer of eligibility and application information.
State Government: www.pheaa.org
- Many states offer a variety of financial aid programs.
- Eligibility is usually restricted to state residents or students attending institutions in state.
- Contact your financial aid officer of PHEAA representatives for information on how to apply for state aid.
- Colleges and universities often offer their own scholarship, grant, and loan programs to supplement federal and state aid.
- Higher cost private colleges are more likely to have additional aid available.
- College financial aid officers can tell you what college based programs you are eligible for.
- Many organizations offer scholarships or loans to members and their families only. These include financial organizations, banks, savings & loans associations, churches, community groups, professional associations, hobby groups and any group to which you or your family belongs.
- Many businesses offer loans or educational allowances to employees and their families. Check with your parent’s employee benefits departments.