Most students attending college today receive some type of financial aid, usually a combination of grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs. Colleges and universities have Offices of Financial Aid to assist students who demonstrate financial need. The cost of a college education today is staggering and clearly families often require assistance with these costs if attending college is to become a reality. The trick is to know as much as possible about the opportunities available and to be aware of some basic facts.
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  • Substantial financial aid is available. Begin your merit scholarship search at

  • Students should apply for financial aid even if they aren't certain they'll qualify. Financial aid certainly will not be offered unless an application is submitted.

  • Most financial aid is awarded on the basis of need. Academic scholarships get the most publicity, but the bulk of financial aid goes to students who can demonstrate "financial need". A student has financial need at a college if the amount her family can pay is less than what it costs to attend.

  • Family income is not the only factor used in determining how much a family can pay. How much the family can pay depends partly on family income, but other factors such as assets, family size and expenses are also considered. Calculate your family's expected contribution at College Board or FAFSA4Caster.

  • Students should not eliminate any college from consideration based on costs alone. Eligibility for aid is determined by subtracting the amount the family can pay from what it costs to attend a college. The amount a family can pay stays the same regardless of how much a college costs. A student usually will be eligible for more aid at a higher-cost college.

  • Colleges expect both students and parents to contribute toward college costs. Financial aid is intended to supplement, not replace, a family's own resources. Families should be prepared to help themselves and should start planning to meet their share of college costs well in advance.

  • Students may receive different amounts or types of financial aid from different colleges. Even colleges that cost about the same may offer a student different types or amounts of aid, usually because their policies for awarding financial aid differ.

  • The college that offers the most aid, or whose award letter arrives first, may not be the best one for the student to attend. Educational, not financial, considerations should be most important in selecting a college.

  • Never rule out a college because of cost. Families with annual income exceeding $70,000 may not qualify for much in the way of federal assistance. However, many colleges with high tuition, room, and board cost save substantial endowment funds that enable them to meet the financial aid needs of students who don't qualify for federal funds. Those colleges use a need analysis formula that takes into account factors such as home equity and unusually high medical or dental expenses.

  • All families interested in being considered for financial aid need to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

  • In order to determine eligibility for nonfederal financial aid, most private colleges have their own institutional financial aid form or use the PROFILE.

Ms. Groelle at has assisted over a thousand families in their search for funding, and in successfully completing the many forms and deadlines related to financial aid. Contact her at


The most important things to remember are:

1. Even if you don't think you are eligible, consider applying for aid. You just may qualify.

2. The definition of financial need is simply the difference between what you and your family can afford and what the college you wish to attend costs. This means the net cost of attending an expensive private college or a lower cost state university may end up being about the same. A good way to begin your financial planning is to complete an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) worksheet at College Board, Finaid, or Sallie Mae.

3. While colleges strive to meet your full financial need, some can't, and you may need to find additional sources of funding.

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