The costs of college can be staggering—more than $50,000 per year at a private residential school. However, if a family demonstrates financial need, there is money available to help pay for college. According to the colleges and to the financial aid advisors, cost should never be a deterrent to attending a particular college. A workshop on college financial aid is held at MA each fall.
Traditionally, the admission decision and the financial aid decision have been two processes; because the admission decision is made first, there hasn’t been a great need to worry that an application for financial aid will influence those evaluating your application for admission. As financial pressures on colleges have increased, however, some colleges will consider the financial situation of applicants. Students applying for aid should consult with your college counselor about these issues and concerns.
All financial aid offered is based on the need of the student and the family. Need is assessed by the following formula:
College Cost - Family Contributions = Need.
Since the resources of a family do not change in this formula, the assessment of need will go up and down only with the cost of the college. In other words, the more expensive a college, the more aid will be made available to the student. Every college now has a net price calculator on its website. This tool will help you figure out what your cost may be.
Financial Aid is offered to a student in a package that would be a combination of the following resources:
- Grants: These are gifts from the college or the federal or state government that do not need to be repaid. Generally, the higher the need, the higher the grant will be in the individual package.
- Loans: Money is loaned to the student from the college, a private institution or the federal or state government. Payment of these loans is usually deferred until the student is out of school. Interest for these loans varies, but can be considerably lower than other types of loans. Some banks are making special loan programs available for parents. The advantage of such programs is that they are not based on the need.
- Work Study: Colleges will expect students to contribute to the cost. In addition to work during the summer, students will be asked to work during the year on campus or with a campus related employer. For students who have financial need, the college will guarantee a job that will insure that the student is able to earn money while attending school.
In addition to money provided on the basis of financial need, there are local scholarships and programs that provide money based on merit or need. For example, some companies provide scholarships for sons or daughters of employees, organizations such as the Elks Lodge sponsor scholarship competitions, or nonprofits such as 10,000 Degrees
or Bridge the Gap. Scholarships such as these are advertised at school and on the college counseling website. In addition, those interested should check with the groups with whom they are associated to find out if such programs are available.
Merit based scholarships are available, but are often for the student with exceptional talent, such as athletic, musical, or academic achievement. Most of these types of scholarships are made available through the colleges themselves.
Applying For Financial Aid
- To qualify for all federal aid programs, families are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Families cannot submit the FAFSA before January 1 of the senior year but should file by February 1. Aid is usually denied to late applicants.
- Many private colleges will also require families to complete a form called the CSS Profile, a personalized financial assessment which is specific for each family and each college. Students should begin the Profile application process in October of the senior year by visiting the College Board website. If applying early to a school, very often this form is required early.
- Students applying to California schools who might be eligible for a Cal Grant should submit a GPA release form to the College Counseling Office.
- Families with detailed financial aid questions should attend one of the workshops sponsored by 10,000 Degrees. They are an excellent source of information. Or you can call any financial aid office at a college your son or daughter may be interested in.
- Families should also contact the Financial Aid Offices where the student applied to get great support for their questions.