Undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships are forms of aid that help students pay for their education. Unlike student loans, scholarships and fellowships do not have to be repaid. Hundreds of thousands of scholarships and fellowships from several thousand sponsors are awarded each year.
When to Apply
You should apply for aid every year, even if you think you don’t qualify. There are many factors affecting eligibility for financial aid, like a change in family financial circumstances. For example, a student who didn’t qualify one year might become eligible during the next year when a brother or sister enrolls in college.
To apply for student financial aid from the federal government, including the Pell Grant, Perkins Loan, Stafford Loan and work-study, you will need to submit financial aid applications, the most important of which is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Before you fill out the FAFSA, it’s imperative that you get to know the form a little better. In doing so, you may be able to qualify for more financial aid, helping you further along the path of going to college.
If you want to get an early estimate of what the government thinks you can afford to pay for your education, try FinAid’s Financial Aid Estimation Form. It lets you play what-if games to give you an idea how changes in income and assets affect the expected family contribution (EFC). FinAid also has a variety of other EFC calculators such as the QuickEFC calculator which provides an approximation of the EFC with one tenth the questions.