Applying Yourself Part 4: College 101 – Where the Money I$

Most college courses have a number as part of the course title. The course number is a shortcut to telling you how complicated the course is; the higher the number, the more complicated. Courses with a 101 (or 1001) number are, therefore, the most basic.

So far we have stayed at the 101 level. Has the information been helpful? Are you ready to dive into the next level of information about financial aid?

Before we do, though, we need to finish our application series. There is one more type of financial aid application and that is the college or unversity’s financial aid (or scholarship) application.

Do you need money for college? Ask the college!

Many of you may not realize this, but colleges and universities are the largest source of grants and scholarships for undergraduate students in the United States. According to the College Board’s publication Trends in Student Aid, the more than 26% of the money available to students in total financial aid (including loans, grants and work awards) comes from colleges and universities. This compares to 15% from the Federal Pell Grant, and 6% (each) from State Grants and Veterans Benefits. Private scholarships provide only 7% of the total aid to students each year. Do the math and you will see that you need to think about colleges and universities as a source for financial aid.

So how do you apply for financial aid from colleges and universities? The answer, sadly, is “it depends”. But your friend moneyman is here to explain how to work with the system.

Some colleges use the FAFSA to determine their own institutional financial aid while some colleges use the College Board’s CSS Financial Aid Profile. If you have been following along (and if not, quick read the old posts), you have covered these colleges. But some others may have their own financial aid application forms.

For example, my current employer suggests that students complete an institutional scholarship application. While you can qualify for Federal or State financial aid without completing this form, there are many institutional grants and scholarships which rely upon this application (and if you do not complete the application, you will not qualify).

Some other colleges who do not use the CSS Profile may ask every student to complete a financial aid application form available for download at their institutional web site. In this case, the form often is used to match students to prospective scholarships (or to collect information in a free format which is then used to award institutional funds).

And still other colleges may need no application form from you at all other than your admissions application, but will use the information from your academic record to award you an institutional merit-based scholarship. In these cases while there is no formal “institutional financial aid application,” your admissions application serves this purpose.

So, in short, you need to ask your college or university if they have a financial aid application, and if they do, complete it.

So in summary you can see that a complete financial aid application includes four types of forms:

  • the FAFSA
  • the CSS Financial Aid Profile
  • your state’s financial aid application
  • your college’s financial aid application

Only be completing all of these applications will you have a completed financial aid application. Well… sort of.

I guess it’s time to talk about private (or outside) scholarships. Look for that in my next post.

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