Understanding Need-Based Financial Aid

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    • Colleges, corporations, and community groups pay for talent: academic, athletic, music, performing arts, residency, anything the the scholarship fund finds worthy.  Discover the kinds of scholarships and scholarship tips at Scholarships.
    • Comprised of Loans, Grants, and Work Study.  Details found below in this page.


Not everyone can pay the full cost of attending a college.  Although the primary responsibility for paying lies with the family, the government tries to help with loans, grants, and work study.  Colleges may be able to provide additional grants.  One must apply to qualify for need-based financial aid.  Filing deadlines are set by colleges/universities. 

  • Check all institutions to which you are applying. 
  • Apply for financial aid before (at least two weeks) the earliest deadline set by your institutions.
  • Do NOT wait until you are accepted.  Apply for financial aid at ALL schools to which you apply by the earliest deadline.

Common Need-Based Forms

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

    • Opens 1 October.  Families provide information from the previous year's taxes to obtain aid for the next year's schooling.  e.g. 2017 data used for the 2019-2000 school year.  Current asset information is also provided.
    • Standard requirement for all educational institutions. Determines the amount and type of Federal Student Aid for available to the individual
      • Federal Grants: Pell and SEOG  (do not pay back)
      • Loans (have to be paid back!)
        • Subsidized - The government pays interest on loans so long as the student attends their post-secondary school.  Families that cannot fund the cost of attendance may be granted a subsidized loan
        • Unsubsidized - All students who are qualified (U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and other specified groups) can get unsubsidized loans
        • Parent loans - Parents who are qualified must also be financially qualified to take out a parent loan.  These are unsubsidized and can accrue quickly.
      • Work Study -
        • The student works to earn the specified amount of money during the school year. 
        • The government pays all or part of the student's salary. 
        • Taxes must be paid on monies earned, but
        • Work study earnings are subtracted from the total earned by the student for the year when  using that year to file the FAFSA.
  • CSS Profile



Federal access portal to everything related to college preparation, application, funding, etc. This This site is a MUST!


View and download federal publications that may help you understand the fiancial aid process.


The State Counsel for Higher Education for Virginia (SHEV) - links to the Academic Common Market, domicile information, lists of aid programs available.


Get an early estimate of your eligibility to receive federal student financial aid


Students and at least one parent are required to use an FSA ID, composed of a username and password, to access certain federal sites and to sign the FAFSA.  Each person needs an email he/she actually reads.  This is a very important access that will be used at least once a year, so users need to write their username and password and to keep it in a very safe place where it will be completely confidential.


Details on steps to file for federal student financial aid


College Board provides this application to help colleges determine how to distribute endowment monies to students to provide financial aid beyond federal aid.  Discover which schools require this application and if the college requires the noncustodial parent to also file.  Discover how to file the application and its cost.


This "SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid" is offered by Fastweb.  It has rich offerings on everything from scam alerts to scholarship searches.

EDUPASS - for International Students

This "SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid" is offered by FinAid Page, LLC.  It has information for international students on colleges, admission, paying for college, and scholarships at U.S. schools. Advise on cultural differences, travel, and living in the U.S.


International Financial Aid and College Scholarship Search