Paying for college is a reality that presents a challenge for many families. However, you can plan ahead by starting early to investigate available scholarship opportunities and options for financial aid. Students should definitely include parents in this process and may want to start a search for financial aid resources at FinAid, an excellent and comprehensive public service website. On FinAid, you can learn about the many available education savings plans, loans, and scholarships. FinAid includes sample forms and calculators so you can get down to the nitty gritty of dollars and cents. FinAid even has a page that highlights weird and wacky scholarships. There are also many websites and books that help you find scholarships and sources of money for college.
Financial Aid Options and Sources
There is "need-based" financial aid which is available primarily based on family need and "merit-based" financial aid which is granted regardless of family need. The three basic types of need-based financial aid are grants, loans, and work-study. Grants or scholarships are funds that do not have to be repaid. Loans are available to students (and parents) and are usually payable after you've graduated or left school. These loans often have lower interest rates than commercial loans. Work-study is a job arranged for you by the college. The funding for all three types of aid may come from federal, state, college, institutional, or private sources.
Merit-based financial aid is a grant or scholarship awarded for academic, artistic, or athletic achievement, ethnic or religious background, intended field of study, or other criteria. These scholarships are granted by colleges, organizations, or other private sources regardless of family need.Qualifications for "Need-Based" Aid
Some students don't apply for need-based financial aid because they think their families won't qualify. However, millions of students are receiving some type of financial aid every year.
"Need" is defined as the difference between what it costs to attend a particular college (including tuition and cost of living) and what you and your family can afford to pay toward those costs ("expected family contribution"). Since the amount you can pay generally stays the same whether the costs are high or low, you would be eligible for different amounts of aid at different colleges. In fact, if you get all the financial aid for which you are eligible, you could end up paying the same amount at a high-cost college as you would at a lower-cost one.Your Expected Contribution
Financial aid is intended to supplement, not replace, a family's resources. For that reason, most families should think of themselves as the primary source of funds for college. Almost all colleges, government agencies, and special programs that award aid expect you and your family to contribute as much as possible toward college costs.
Figuring out how much each student and her family should pay is a fairly complicated process called "need analysis." A need analysis is performed using certain formulas for everyone who applies for aid. This involves an examination both of what the parents can pay toward college costs and what the student can contribute.
Annual income is not the only factor that is considered in evaluating your eligibility for need-based financial aid. A family's assets are also considered, since a family with assets is assumed to be in a stronger financial position than a family with the same income but no assets.
Finally, financial aid administrators know that each family situation is unique. Even though a standard formula is used to analyze your family's financial situation, individual circumstances are taken into account when your application for financial aid is considered. Be prepared, then, to help yourself, but know that if a college accepts you for admission, it will try to help you make your education affordable.Applying for Financial Aid
Need-based Financial Aid
There are two essential applications for need-based financial aid. Every student seeking need-based financial aid should file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA ) - available after January 1. Many colleges and universities require the CSS PROFILE as well as the FAFSA.
In addition, some colleges and universities have their own applications for aid, and these must be submitted at the same time the student applies for admission.
Note: Complete and submit your FAFSA application as soon as possible after January 1. Money is awarded from "pools" - the earlier you get your application in, the more money will be in the pools. The CSS PROFILE and FAFSA and outside scholarship forms will be made available to students as soon as the school receives them.Merit Scholarships
Each year seniors from St. Andrew's are offered merit scholarships from colleges, or local or national organizations recognizing students' contributions to the community, leadership or special talents including academic achievement. Awards range from $1,000 to partial or full tuition -- often renewable over four years in college. In some instances, our students are asked to drive or fly to a campus to compete in several rounds of interviews to be considered for these awards. In other cases, they need only apply to a college or submit additional written information by a specific deadline.
There are scholarships available from local and national organizations, corporations, and foundations. In general, these awards range from $500 to $2,000. Usually, a student must complete an application, write an essay, and provide a confidential recommendation as part of the process. Thankfully, the bulk of private scholarship application deadlines fall between January and May of senior year - after admission applications are complete.
Once a student's college application list is set, students should check individual college/university websites for merit scholarships.Military Scholarships
If you're interested in the military, you can apply for a ROTC Scholarship which is due December 1. Students who attend one of the military academies get a free education. If this interests you, check out:United States Military AcademyUnited States Naval AcademyUnited States Air Force Academy
United States Coast Guard Academy
United States Merchant Marine Academy