Financial aid packages are comprised of many parts, and come in all shapes and sizes. Yours may include merit-based scholarships (maybe you’re an athlete or awesome at playing the oboe), federal- or state-level grants, or different kinds of student loans.
Some components of your financial aid package may be “need-based,” which are determined by the information you and your family supply on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Your need-based awards are determined based on a number of factors pulled from your FAFSA, including:
- Number of people in your household
- How many people in your household are in college
- The age of your oldest parent
- The number of tax exemptions on your most recent filing
- Cash savings
- Checking account information
- Net worth
- A lot more
But in a really general sense, your need-based awards come down to two things: Cost of Attendance at your university (which factors in tuition, fees, and estimated expenses for books and living expenses) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is an estimate of how much your household can provide toward your education expenses. There are tools online (like our Net Price Calculator) to help you estimate what your household’s EFC might be. It is important to know that regardless of your EFC, college expenses are technically your responsibility and will be billed in your name.
Fully completing the FAFSA and providing accurate financial information are key to maximizing your need-based awards.
Examples of need-based awards include:
- Pell Grants, which are usually awarded to undergraduate students who have not yet earned a degree. Since this money comes in the form of a grant, it does not need to be repaid after you graduate.
- Perkins Loans, which are low-interest loans for students that will need to be repaid upon graduation.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), which provides between $100 and $4,000 a year to students with exceptional financial need and does not need to be repaid.
- Work-Study Funding, which will allow you to be considered for Work-Study positions on campus. Work-Study jobs offer opportunities for students to work while they attend school and typically come with flexible (but limited) hours.
- Subsidized Student Loans do not accumulate interest while you’re in school; however, the money you receive will still need to be paid back after you graduate.
- State Awards are available to students based on financial need. Your guidance counselor can provide more information on need-based awards offered by your state government, or check out the State of Indiana Division of Student Financial Aid.
Finally, be sure to check out some of the tools that are available online that can help you estimate what your need-based awards might be—this will help you plan ahead and pursue additional financial aid options, should you need to.
Looking for FAFSA help?
We know that filling out the FAFSA can be a headache (especially if it's your first time), but if you get all the necessary paperwork together ahead of time, it's actually a piece of cake. Download this free FAFSA Checklist to hep organize everything you'll need to complete the FAFSA.
Photo Credit to Dan Benscik: Flickr