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Financial Aid


What is Financial Aid?

Financial Aid includes grants, scholarships, work-study and loans. Some types are based on your merit, talents or special abilities. Others are based on your financial need.

Financial Aid Steps:

  1. Know Your Options
    • Grants are funds that you don't have to pay back. They may be based on financial need and can come from a variety of sources. The most common types come from federal and state agencies and colleges.
    • Scholarships are awarded from various sources and these don't have to be paid back. Most are based on merit or financial need.
    • Work-Study allows you to earn money in college to help meet  your expenses by working a part-time job on campus. Your first step in receiving a work-study job is to fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA).
    • Loans are debts that must be repaid. In most cases, payment begins after you've graduated or left college. Your eligibility for federal student loans is determined by the results of the FAFSA.
  2. Search for Scholarships
    • Start early in your junior year of high school and continue searching through each year of college. Be aware of deadlines.
    • Learn the criteria scholarship organizations consider, such as academic achievements, hobbies, leadership accomplishments, community involvement, school activities, etc. Many seek students who are well rounded--not just with good grades.
    • Check out many different sources to find funding for your education:
      1. School counselor
      2. Community Organizations
      3. College Financial Aid and Admission Offices
      4. Libraries
      5. Internet (check out the scholarship link on the left hand side for helpful scholarship search websites)
        *Beware of scholarship scams--never pay money when applying for a scholarship.*
  3. Get a PIN
    • Before you apply for financial aid, you and at least one parent should each request a Personal Identification Number (PIN) at
    • The PIN can make the financial aid process quicker by allowing you to sign your financial aid application or FAFSA electronically. The PIN will also allow you to make changes and check the status of your financial aid application.
    • EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution which is an index colleges use to determine eligibility and types of financial aid you may receive if you attend that college. The EFC is determined by the information you report on the FAFSA regarding your family income and assets, family size and number of students in college.
  4. Fill out the FAFSA
    • WHO:  You and your parents
    • WHAT:  The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and you must complete this form to be considered for federal aid and many types of state and institutional aid.
    •  WHEN:  Complete the form as soon as you can after October 1st of your senior year while also making sure that you meet the school's priority deadline.
    •  WHERE:  The FAFSA can be completed online (FAFSA). A paper application is also available by calling (800) 433-3243.
    • HOW:  You and your parents will need to gather the most recent federal tax returns (including W-2 forms), as well as current bank account and investment statements. If it is not possible to complete tax forms by the time you submit your FAFSA, estimate your income and your parent's income and tax liability and be as accurate as possible. Free assistance in completing the FAFSA through the ICAN College Planning Center by calling (877) 272-4692. Click here to get a checklist
  5. Receive the SAR
    • The SAR (Student Aid Report) is generated by the U.S. Department of Education after the FAFSA has been processed and sent electronically to the schools you've listed on the form. This form is intended to officially notify you that the application has been received. The SAR is a summary of all the information you submitted on your FAFSA.
  6. Review the Award Letter
    • The award letter is generated once the college receives your FAFSA results. The award letter will outline the specific awards you're eligible for if you attend that college. Remember the award letter is an estimate and is subject to change, especially if you've estimated figures on your FAFSA. Read the instructions carefully and check to see if anything needs to be signed and returned to the school by a certain deadline.
      • What will your college out-of-pocket costs be?
        Direct Cost (tuition, fees, books, supplies, and room and board)
        -Financial Aid
        =Out-of-pocket Cost
  7. If You Must Borrow, Do it Wisely
    • Student loans are a form of financial aid that must be repaid. Loans can be helpful-and sometimes necessary
    • Find out if interest will accrue while you're in school, and if your payments can be deferred until after you graduate. Keep in mind you may have to continue to borrow each year you are in school.

These guidelines were taken from a form given out by the Iowa College Access Network. If you would like a hard copy, stop by the guidance counselor's office.