Financial aid is money students are awarded to pay college. There are two forms of financial aid: gift aid and self-help aid. Gift aid is money that the student doesn’t have to repay. It can take the form of scholarships or grants. Self-help aid is money the student will be responsible for repaying such as loans or earning such as work-study.
Financial aid is available from the government, colleges, and private organizations. These organizations may award financial aid based on student financial need or some non-need qualification such as merit, athletics, or other skills.
The majority of financial aid is awarded through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students submit the FAFSA to be eligible for federal government programs. Most federal gift-aid programs are need-based. The most popular federal loan programs do not have need-based qualifications.
When students submit the FAFSA, they are assigned an Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is used by the federal government and colleges to determine how much financial aid to award to students. Some colleges have students submit a second application form called the CSS/PROFILE to qualify for financial aid directly from the college.
Private organizations with have their own application process for awarding financial aid separate from the FAFSA. Students will have to complete individual applications for each organization. However, any gift aid students receive from these “outside” organizations will have to be reported to the college financial aid office.