Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial aid is one of the more complex facets of college admissions.  At one point a relatively straightforward and standardized process, the award of financial aid now comes in many varieties and through numerous programs.  Although applying for aid can be a complicated procedure, it is well worth exploring for many Eastside Prep families.  Qualification for need-based aid is determined through a variety of measures and there are instances when families are eligible for aid they did not expect.  In addition to need-based aid, there is a growing pool of schools offering some form of merit scholarship.  These scholarships can vary immensely in amount but often can make private-college tuition more competitive with public college alternatives.

Our strong recommendation in reviewing cost at each institution is not to be immediately frightened or overly enthused by initial “sticker prices” of institutions.  There are cases when students find that after financial aid packages are determined, total cost is lowest at the most expensive college on their list!  Often, aid packages serve to make costs closer at each college and allow for choice based on other factors.

The first step in applying for aid is to contact the financial aid office of each college and receive information.  There are also aid estimators on every college website (required by law). Colleges often have their own application for aid that must be submitted at the time of application for admission.  They also will provide each applicant with detailed instructions on the process including deadlines and which federal forms must be submitted.  All need-based aid is determined in part by the submission of the FAFSA (a federal form required to apply for aid at ALL colleges, generally due in early January) and for some colleges a form called PROFILE. While these forms request slightly different information, each is sent to a central clearinghouse.  From there the results are processed and sent to the colleges you select.

THE FINANCIAL AID PACKAGE

This will generally consist of three parts: grant(s), loan(s), and work-study (often campus-based employment).  Loans and work-study are sometimes referred to as the self-help portion of the package.  Your aid package added to your family contribution should equal the total cost.  The total should include tuition, room, board, and special fees (such as books and travel costs).

  • Grants are monies given as outright gifts that do not have to be repaid.  Grants can come from various sources: federal aid, state grants, and money awarded directly by individual colleges.
  • Loans require repayment to the source of funding.  These loans, like grants, can come from federal, state, and institutional sources.  Some also are available through private lenders.  Many banks and lending institutions now make special loan programs available to parents to help finance their student’s education.  These latter loans are not based on need, but can help aid the family’s budget over the years of schooling.
  • Work-study consists of on-campus employment for hourly wages during the academic year.  There is a weekly limit on hours and a yearly limit on total wages.  Of course, students can seek other employment to supplement their income.

In addition to the financial aid package, there are a variety of payment programs offered by many colleges and universities.  These programs are designed to allow families flexibility in their payment of college costs.

FINANCIAL AID TERMS

  • Need-blind admission.  Colleges and universities that agree not to use financial need as a consideration in admission.
  • Need-aware admission.  Colleges and universities that hold open the option of considering financial need in admission.
  • Admit/Deny.  The admission strategy in which students are admitted need-blind but can be denied financial aid.
  • Need Analysis.  The process used to evaluate an applicant family’s financial situation and determine how much the student or family can pay.  The most widely required form to determine need is the government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • EFC.  Expected Family Contribution: the amount noted in the Student Aid Report (the notification of aid eligibility).  The EFC is the amount of family income and assets that are deemed available to help pay for school in a given year.
  • Demonstrated Need.  The cost of attending an institution, minus the EFC, equals demonstrated need.
  • Need-based Aid.  Financial aid that is awarded based upon demonstrated need.
  • Merit-based Aid.  Financial aid, including scholarships, which is awarded based on candidate merit (i.e. academic, special talent, citizenship, competition), excluding athletic aid.  This form of aid may or may not consider financial need.
  • Gapping.  A practice in which a school offers needy students some aid, but in an amount less than the difference between the cost of education and the EFC, resulting in unmet need.
  • Preferential Packaging.  This occurs when admitted students are awarded aid packages of differing attractiveness based on the assessed desirability of the candidates by the college.

NON NEED-BASED AID: MERIT SCHOLARSHIPS

Some scholarships are completely separate from the need-based financial aid process.  Many different types of scholarships exist, but most fall into two broad categories: Institution-based, and Community-based.

Institution-based scholarships: Most colleges will publish the scholarships that they offer in their literature; you can also inquire at the admissions office. The great majority of colleges offer merit scholarships in order to encourage interest from students who otherwise might not apply or attend. Frequently, these scholarships are referred to as “merit” scholarships; while “merit” most often signifies academic achievement, it can include music, art, community service, citizenship, etc.  At the most selective colleges and universities, merit scholarships are sometimes not offered at all, and otherwise are limited in number and fiercely competitive.

Community-based scholarships: A broad range of these scholarships exist. Some are subject-specific; some are sponsored by civic or business groups. Some require a simple application, some are granted with no application, and some are essay contests or require other submissions or interviews. While some of these scholarships are based locally, there are many at the national level as well, from corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola and Wendy’s to the military’s Reserve Officer’s Training Core (ROTC).  Please note that some of these scholarships, particularly ones sponsored by national corporations, are extremely selective— consult with us before beginning work on applications.

For an exhaustive list as well as other financial aid informationthe web-site www.finaid.org is an excellent source.  The most comprehensive and effective sources for scholarships are found on the web at free search sites like www.fastweb.com. Feel free to consult with us about further information or if you need help with how to approach the research.  We urge you to avail yourself of any and all opportunities for scholarships.  The scholarship search and application process can require a great deal of legwork, but the potential benefits often outweigh the challenges.

In total dollars, most financial aid is awarded by colleges on the basis of need. A family’s financial contribution is determined by formula, based on information submitted by the parent(s) of the applicant.  This figure projects what a family can pay for higher education in the upcoming year.  Need is then determined by subtracting that figure from the total cost of each institution.  Consequently, need fluctuates at each institution.  A family with an EFC of $20,000 will be judged without need at a state college with costs less than $20,000 while they may qualify for $20-40,000 of aid at the most expensive schools in the country.  Family contribution can be estimated on the Internet.  The College Board (www.collegeboard.com) offers a financial aid calculator into which families can input personal data and figure a rough estimate of the EFC (estimated family contribution).  There are also similar calculators on every college’s website. Please note the EFC can be figured using two different methodologies, one more commonly used at public institutions and one more commonly used at private colleges.

  • Read college websites carefully for particular requirements of additional forms.  Also, write or call colleges early in the fall for financial aid information.  When making a visit to the admission office, it is worthwhile also to stop by the financial aid office.
  • The paperwork to seek need-based financial aid can involve as many as three separate applications.  They are the FAFSA (a federal form required to apply for aid at ALL colleges), the CSS Profile (required by a significant number of colleges as a supplement to the FAFSA), and the college’s own form.  The FAFSA cannot be filed until January 1 of the student’s senior year.  However, it also should be sent in as soon as possible after that date.  The CSS Profile should be registered for as early as September of the senior year.  Both forms are available online. Institutional forms vary in due dates.  It is most important that parents and students familiarize themselves with the financial aid process and requirements at each college in which they have interest.
  • All financial aid is in the continual process of change due to government budget cuts and institutional revision.  Please work closely with the financial aid officer at your prospective colleges.
  • “Title IV” Codes are different from “CEEB” Codes.  A directory of Title IV codes is in public library branches and on-line at www.ed.gov.