Non-Need Based Aid comes in a variety of forms. Merit Aid can be awarded to students with strong transcripts and scores, or to students who have specific strengths in Athletics, Music, Art, or Leadership (to name a few categories).
Look For Institution Specific Aid/Grants
Go to an institution's Financial Aid website, and investigate what aid is available to you. Read the criteria, and note the procedure the institution employs for a student's application for a specific scholarship/grant.
Search For Non-Institution Specific Aid/Grants
Visit your local high school guidance office, and inquire about scholarships applicable to your profile. If you are from Wyoming, then Westover probably does not receive information about scholarships offered by your town's local groups.
- Types of Aid
- Applying for Financial Aid
- Should I Apply for Financial Aid?
- The Actual Aid Package
- Determining Need and Contributions
- International Students
A family's need is determined either by the Federal Government, the College Scholarship Service, and/or the individual college through calculating the information you provide on the forms they use. After a family's Expected Family contribution (EFC) is determined, their need is defined as the remaining amount (after the EFC) that is required to make attendance possible.
Most often a student's need is met through a combination of grants (free money), loans, and work-study. While some colleges promise that they will meet full need, others cannot guarantee that full need will be met. Some grants are guaranteed for four years (as long as a student meets the requirements academically), while others are reviewed yearly. It is important for families to become familiar with the financial aid policies of each college their daughter is considering.
Merit Aid is awarded in the form of grants (free money) to students who have strong transcripts and scores or a special talent in a specific area (such as art, music, leadership, or athletics). Such aid is awarded to reward a student for good work and to ensure matriculation.
Each student will have specific requirements for financial aid. In many cases this may include a form as part of the application process, or a request to fill out one of several forms.
I. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online
These forms become available in November and December of the students senior year. All students applying for any Federal financial aid must file this form as soon as possible after January 1st. There is no cost to file this form. Analysis of the data on this form will determine eligibility for Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Stafford Loans (both subsidized and non-subsidized), Perkins Loans, Work Study and other federal and state programs. Many states will also require the FAFSA to award state grants to students. Since federal aid is a key part of most awards, it is critical that this is filed in a timely manner.
II. College Scholarship Service/Financial Aid, PROFILE (Online)
The College Scholarship Service (CSS) has established a new financial analysis system to replace the Financial Aid Form (FAF). This service, CSS Financial Aid PROFILE, is designed to allow both colleges/universities and students to begin the financial aid process much earlier. Parents are encouraged to submit the completed form by November 15th of a students senior year. Information obtained by PROFILE will be used to determine a students eligibility for a college/university's own funds. Students should complete a PROFILE registration form in early fall by mail, fax, or via computer. Students will answer a core of questions and indicate colleges to which they will apply. They will pay an initial registration fee and additional costs per college. Within several weeks, students can expect to receive a PROFILE packet, containing college-specific forms if required.
In addition, families my be asked to submit one of the following:
• Divorced-Separated Parent's Statement: A supplement to the PROFILE for the non-custodial parent requested by many colleges. Copies of the completed form should be sent directly to the college/university's financial aid office.
There is a debate in many circles as to where college admissions is heading in an effort to assist students in their ability to afford college. Stories have appeared in the media that accuse colleges of playing games with aid, or how much applying for aid will affect a students chances for admission. Do not be afraid to ask questions about these issues when visiting schools.
The issue of applying early and its impact on financial aid has also been discussed in many circles and the media. By applying early, you limit your opportunities to compare financial aid packages between schools. The Ivy League and many other schools have gone on record to say that NO differences exist in the manner in which early and regular aid is awarded.
The following terms may help with a better understanding of the process.
NEED-BLIND: This is a process where the admission decision is separate (blind) from the financial aid process. This admission application is evaluated, a decision made, and those accepted are then sent to the financial aid office for review. A growing number of schools that are need-blind, however, do not have the resources to meet the full need of the class that they have accepted.
NEED-AWARE: A growing number of schools with limited resources have become much more honest in admitting that they must look at their budget carefully in accepting a freshman class. In most cases, this will affect the last 10% of the class accepted, or any student placed on a wait-list may learn that no funds are available. Most need-aware schools will meet the financial need of those accepted.
GAPPING: At a number of need-blind schools and, to a lesser extent, need-aware schools, gapping had become a way in which a school may admit you and deny you aid, or to provide you with a financial aid package that does not fully meet (gaps) your calculated need.
Financial aid packages can come in all shapes and forms. Many schools fail to give you the bottom line of what you will pay when all costs are calculated. Take the time to go back and to see what the basic costs of the schools are, add up what the various components of the aid package come out to, and see if it will work for your family.
The most important item to remember is not what a school costs, but rather what a school will cost you. Once you have sorted through the various packages, you will be ready to make that determination.
Each college uses the information that it has requested from you and your family to analyze your need. Virtually all colleges use the SAR (Student Aid Report generated by filing the FAFSA) and most private colleges require the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE — the Need Analysis Report prepared by the College Scholarship Service. Many also use information from their own financial aid application forms and copies of your latest Federal Income Tax Returns. The reports offer colleges a preliminary calculation of the amount of money that your family can contribute to cover the costs of your college education.
The PARENTAL CONTRIBUTION is determined after all income and assets are calculated to determine your families net worth. Home equity is not considered when applying for federal aid; however, it is considered by colleges requiring the PROFILE when they consider distributing the colleges own funds. Then, allowances are made for the number of family members, the number of children in college, debts, necessary expenses, or taxes. Consideration is also given to special financial circumstances (illness, older parents approaching retirement, or special education needs). Be certain that colleges are aware of any such circumstances that may exist in your family. The final result of this analysis is the expected parental contribution.
Please be aware that each college can handle situations differently in which parents are separated, divorced and/or remarried. For example, some colleges take into consideration the income and assets of the stepparent with whom the student lives. Others do not. Federal fund eligibility (determined by the FAFSA) is based on the "household" income only; which can include the stepparent and exclude the biological parent.
The STUDENT CONTRIBUTION is determined after your earnings and assets are reviewed. Typically, you are asked to contribute a portion of your personal savings and other benefits, such as Veteran's Benefits or Social Security Benefits (normally 35% the first year). You are also expected to contribute a certain amount based on what you could realistically earn during the summer whether or not you actually choose to work. Should you receive merit-based awards from organizations outside the college, these are considered as part of your available resources, or are applied against self-help portion of your financial aid package.
In packaging your financial aid package, most colleges first award a SELF-HELP package based on the FAFSA and Federal funds. This will include an opportunity to work on campus through a work-study program, and federal (Perkins or Stafford) or school loans. In most cases, the first $4,000 to $6,000 of an aid package is made up of these awards. In most cases, schools will fill the remaining amount of need if they meet 100% of your need with GRANTS, made up of a combination of Federal Grants such as Pell or SEOG Grants, or grants from the actual funds of the college. A MERIT AWARD may also be part of an award and is often a grant that goes beyond the actual need of a student, or even awarded to a student not applying for aid in the hope of attracting a top scholar to that school.
In these days and times, wide discrepancies exist between packages at various colleges. Do not be afraid to discuss these with the college financial aid office before making a final decision.
International students applying for aid at American colleges are not eligible for awards given through the FAFSA program, and as a result, find themselves a much more competitive group for aid from the school's actual resources. There are a number of schools that attempt to award more aid to international students with need.