Beginner’s Guide to Financial Aid

Whether you’re just starting college after high school or going back to school later in life, the financial aid process can be a daunting one. And with acronyms like COA, EFC and FAFSA, being tossed around, it’s easy to see why. But it doesn’t have to be. To make things a little bit easier, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to financial aid help you navigate paying for school.

First and Foremost – What is the FAFSA?

This mouthful of letters is nothing to be intimidated by. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, is the first step in the financial aid process. The FAFSA form is used by the government, as well as colleges and universities to determine your eligibility for federal student loans, grants and other education assistance. Students must submit a FAFSA form each year they attend college to remain eligible for financial aid.

Completing Your FAFSA

Many colleges and universities won’t allow you to enroll without completing your FAFSA, so making it your first step is not just a good idea, it’s pretty much a requirement. And while the federal government’s deadline to submit your FAFSA is June 30, many states have their own requirements. For example, in California, the deadline to for many state financial aid programs is March 2.

The FAFSA form can be filled out and submitted online via the website – https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa. You’ll be required to provide personal and financial information in order to determine what you might qualify for. If you’re under the age of 24 by December 31st of the award year you are applying for, you’ll need to provide your parents financial information. You’ll also answer questions about the number of people living in your home, the number of people attending college and if you support any other individual/s. All of this information is used to determine your EFC (expected family contribution.) That number is subtracted from the COA (cost of attendance) to ultimately calculate what your need is and what grants or loans you qualify for.

Types of Financial Aid

There are three basic types of financial aid you can apply for.

Loans – There are federal government guaranteed student loans and private lender loans that can help you pay for college. Most education loans are low interest and have a grace period for repayment that begins once you graduate.

Grants and Scholarships – Grants and scholarships can be used to pay for college, but they do not have to be paid back. The most commonly used federal grant is the Pell Grant. A Pell Grant is awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional need who have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree. But there are also a large number of scholarships available to students who qualify based on academic performance and other specific conditions. You should speak to a financial aid specialist at the college you’re considering, to find out if you qualify for any other scholarships.

Work Study Programs – Some colleges offer on-campus work study programs that allow students to work on campus to pay for a portion of tuition or living expenses.

For many students, your financial aid package may be a combination of all of the above, again, depending on your unique situation. But the sooner you get the process started, the better prepared you’ll be when classes start. If you have additional questions after reading through the beginner’s guide to financial aid and you’re ready to get started on the path to a brighter future, contact the admissions department at Summit College today. Our team of admissions and financial aid specialists are here to support you every step of the way on your journey to the career of you dreamed of. And with programs in Allied Health, Technical and Trade and Payroll/HR, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from.  Call us now to learn more.

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