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Financial Aid 101

  • Terms to know

  • Where to look

Terms to know:

Scholarship – financial aid awarded that does not have to be paid back.  Can be for merit/academic achievement or athletic.  (NCAA D3 does not have athletic scholoarships, but they can have very good academic scholoraships)

Grant – A gift that does not have to be paid back

Loan – Money that must be repaid (repayment terms vary)

Work Study – an on-campus job where students can earn a portion of school tuition costs.

Need - usually refers to the difference between the financial resources available to the student (from parent’s, student savings and summer jobs, etc.) and the cost of attending the student’s selected postsecondary institution.   The process of determining “need” is often referred to as a “need analysis.”


Waiver – An agreement that allows attendance at a school without having to pay tuition or other costs if certain eligibility requirements are met.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – a free form distributed by the U.S. Department of Education to collect info & determine a student’s need for federal aid. 

FAFSA process has several acronyms to know...

  • EFC - Expected Family Contribution...this is the amount you’re expected to pay to cover your college costs, including tuition, books, supplies, accommodation, transport, and other study expenses. In simple terms, your EFC is how much the federal government believes that your family can afford to contribute toward college costs

  • COA - Cost of Attendance... this is an estimate of what it would cost to attend a particular college.  It includes direct costs like tuition, required fees, room & board, books, supplies, and equipment.  There are also indirect costs to be considered, like transportation and miscellaneous personal expenses (laundry, clothing, hygiene, etc).

  • FSA ID - Federal Student Aid ID....  the FSA ID is an electronic signature used to sign the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and federal education loan promissory notes. 

  • IRS DRT - IRS Data Retrieval Tool... The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) allows applicants to transfer income and tax information from their federal income tax returns into the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), simplifying the FAFSA.

  • SAR - Student Aid Report... your SAR is a document that summarizes all the information you provided when filling out the FAFSA. Generally, you will receive your Student Aid Report 3–5 days after filing your FAFSA electronically. If you filed your FAFSA by mail, it can take up to 3 weeks to receive your SAR.

Where to look for financial aid

1. ALWAYS start with FAFSA.

  • You won't be eligible for Federal aid & grants without it 

  • It makes you eligible for all school-specific aid deadlines

  • It demonstrates to college coaches you are serious about school


2. Government Agencies

  • One of the most reliable sites to look for scholarships is Career1Stop...

  • When recently checked, there were more than 5,000 available awards for those pursuing a Bachelor's Degree.

  • It is FREE !

3. Schools you are applying to

  • Check the school's financial aid website for requirements

  • Sometimes good grades are enough to earn aid!

4. Community Organizations

  • Many local organizations, such as Rotary clubs, Kiwanis clubs, and other service organizations, offer scholarships to students in their community. 

5. Employer and Corporate Scholarships

  • Many companies offer scholarships to employees and their families, or to students pursuing degrees in fields related to the company's business.

  • Check with your parent’s employer to see if they offer scholarships to employee's children

  • Check companies related to your intended major to see if they offer scholarships.

6. Scholarship Search Engines

There are several websites that can help you find scholarships, such as Fastweb,, and Cappex. These websites usually ask that you to create a profile to be able to search for scholarships that match your qualifications and interests.

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