Federal, state, and institutional financial aid is distributed through your college. Outside scholarships maybe be distributed directly to the student with the student being obligated to report the scholarship to the school’s financial aid office.
Financial aid is usually distributed once per term. The college first applies your financial aid award to tuition, fees, and room and board. This includes loans as well as grants and scholarships. If any money is left over, the school will pay the remaining funds to you. The methods will vary, so check with your college to see what options are available to you.
Work-study earnings are paid directly to the student. The school is required to pay work-study students at least once a month. If students do not work enough hours to use the entire amount of the work-study award, they will not receive the “remaining” funds at the end of the semester.
Federal loans will require first time recipients to go through entrance counseling and sign a promissory note before receiving funds.
If your parents are taking out PLUS loans, the school will generally apply the money to school related expense first as in the case of money awarded directly to the student. However, any money that is left over is paid to the parents, not the student.
Each college will have their own policies concerning financial aid disbursement. These include the order in which costs are paid such as tuition, housing, and fees as well as how the remaining aid is paid to the student. Summer and study abroad terms may have different procedures. They may not distribute money while students have academic or financial holds on their accounts. Work-study students may be paid more than once a month and may have options for receiving a check or direct deposit to an account.
Students also need to be aware of any charges made to their student account after they are paid the remaining part of their financial aid. Since the money has been distributed, there is no “money” available for the school to use to credit the charge. Therefore, the student will have to pay for these charges.