Financial Aid: Paying for College

Financial Aid Timeline for Seniors


Financial Aid Task Goal to Complete
Student and parent request FSA ID Early senior year, September or October
FAFSA is available to complete online October 1st – June 1st (complete by mid-February to early March)
Student receives award letters from the colleges From time of application through March (Varies by school)
Decision needed—enrollment deposit deadline May 1st

What is Financial Aid?

  • Scholarships
  • Grants
  • Loans
  • Employment Opportunities

 How Do Students Apply?


  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid
  • Calculates student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC)


  • Required by some colleges and universities
  • Requests additional information
  • Involves a fee

 When Should Students Apply?

  • FAFSA will be available October 1st through June 1st of student’s senior year of high school. The FAFSA should be completed as early as possible in order to assist in making financial decisions about college.
  • Most need-based aid is awarded on a “first-come, first-served” basis.
  • Plan to submit the FAFSA before each school’s priority deadline.
  • The FAFSA must be completed each year the student is enrolled.

What Can We Do to Prepare?

  1. FSA ID Registration
  2. FAFSA on the Web Worksheet
  3. Forecast your EFC
  4. Net price calculators

FSA ID Registration

  • Students and parents can get their FSA IDs before filing the FAFSA.
  • The student and a parent will each need a FSA ID.
  • FSA IDs will be used by the student and parents throughout the aid process, including subsequent school years.

FAFSA Practice Tools


  • Forecasts a ballpark figure of what EFC may be
  • Allows families to become familiar with FAFSA
  • Each school required to have within two clicks of homepage
  • Gives better idea of what you’ll pay at each school

How is the EFC calculated?

  • Federal methodology is the formula created by Congress to determine the EFC
  • Determined by the Dept of Education, not the individual schools
  • Uses student and parent income and assets
  • Includes provisions and exceptions for your family and cost-of-living
  • Need varies based on cost

 Award Letter

  • Lists scholarships, grants, loans, and work opportunities based upon FAFSA
  • Sent out by schools in early March

 Financial Aid Scams

To check the legitimacy of scholarship search services or individuals, for information about financial aid scams, and tips to avoid being scammed, visit these websites:

  1. U.S. Department of Education:
  2. Federal Trade Commission:
  3. Better Business Bureau::

 Different Types of Federal Aid 

  1. Pell Grant
  2. Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
  3. Perkins/Direct Loans
  4. Federal Work Study
  • FWS is an opportunity for students to earn money at an hourly wage. FWS is not immediately applied to a student’s account.
  • FWS jobs tend to be very flexible and accommodating with student schedules.
  • Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students may be eligible to earn FWS.
  • Employment may be on or off campus.

Financial Aid Questions to Ask Colleges

Financial aid planning can be intimidating, and you may not know where to turn for answers. The financial aid officers at colleges and universities are there to help. Below is a list of questions that the Associated Colleges of the Midwest suggests families ask:

1. What kind of financial assistance does the college offer: need-based, merit-based,or both?
2. Can the college provide an early estimate of what the financial aid award might be?
3. What forms are needed to apply?
4. When are financial aid applications due?
5. What student costs are taken into account by the financial aid office—tuition, room, board, transportation? What about additional expenses such as books, fees, computers, and personal expenses?
6. What’s included in the comprehensive fee? For example, do students have to pay extra for computer time or to attend campus events (concerts, plays, films, lectures, athletic events, etc)?
7. When will we be notified about the amount of assistance we can expect?
8. Does the institution have an appeal process to review special circumstances?
9. Is there a commitment for financial assistance beyond the first year?
10. How and when do we apply for financial assistance after the first year?
11. What if we do not qualify for need-based aid? Are there alternative financing options available?
12. What grants, loans, and work-study opportunities does the college offer? Are there any we might be eligible for?
13. What’s the average student loan indebtedness amount for the college’s graduates?
14. Is there a restriction to the length of time that financial assistance will continue?
15. How long does it typically take a student to graduate from this college? Four years? Longer?
16. What impact do scholarships from outside sources have on other financial aid?
17. Can we apply financial aid toward an off-campus study program, either in the U.S. or another country?
18. What happens if our family’s financial situation changes substantially during the school year?
19. Are there payment options available, such as monthly or quarterly?