Navigating the college financial aid process can be confusing and overwhelming. These resources were developed in partnership with our friends College Money Matters.
- Financial Aid To-Do Timeline for Senior Year
- Financial Aid Questions While Researching Colleges
- Additional Places to Find Money for College
- Financial Aid Glossary
- College Money Matters is a great website that provides information to help you make good financial decisions about college.
NOTE: The information provided below is a broad overview of the financial aid process and is not meant to replace or contradict information from your school counseling office.
Financial Aid Questions While Researching Colleges
As you visit and research colleges, ask the following questions and keep a summary sheet. See Financial Aid Glossary for definitions of any terms that you are not familiar with.
- What financial aid forms will be required for this college?
- What is the “priority filing deadline” for financial aid forms?
- If I apply ED (Early Decision) or EA (Early Action), are the deadlines for financial aid forms different than if I apply Regular Decision?
- Is this college “need-blind”?
- Does your college meet all “financial need”?
- How does this college meet “financial need”?
- Will the financial aid be a combination of grants, work-study, and loans?
- Does this college have a “no loan” or “restricted no loan” policy?
- Does this college offer “merit scholarships”? If they do, consider these additional questions.
- Can I receive more than one scholarship from this college?
- What qualifications are needed for this scholarship(s)?
- How do I apply for this scholarship(s)?
- Do I need to apply for admission as a specific major to qualify for this scholarship(s)?
- Do I need to apply for admission to a particular college/school of the University to qualify for this scholarship(s)?
- Is there an additional scholarship application(s) required?
- What is the deadline for this scholarship application(s)?
- Does this scholarship(s) require a recommendation or nomination from someone in my high school?
- What is the admissions application deadline if I want to apply for this scholarship(s)?
- Is this scholarship(s) renewable for years 2, 3, and 4 of college? Do I need to reapply for this scholarship(s) each year?
- Do you qualify for fee waivers to submit college applications, send test scores to colleges and submit the CSS Profile to colleges? Ask your School or College Counselor, Admission Rep from the college, or your Her Honor Mentor.
Additional Places to Find Money for College
Scholarships are money that does not need to be repaid and can come from sources that are not part of the college financial aid process. We recommend that you register with at least one web-based scholarship search engine. Create a personal profile that captures details about you and your family. Think about your memberships and affiliations with civic groups, ethnic groups, religious groups, professional organizations, medical associations, and employers, including union affiliations. Some popular websites to use to search for this type of scholarship are:
Check with your high school counseling office, they may have a list of other scholarship opportunities.
College Money Matters guide on where to find scholarships and how to avoid scams is another helpful resource you should consider consulting in this process.
Financial Aid Glossary
Award Letter The document you receive from a college that explains the terms of the financial aid that the college is offering you. The information includes the types and amounts of financial aid offered, what you’re expected to do to keep the award, and a deadline for accepting the award.
CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®: A financial aid application used by more than 300 colleges, universities, and private scholarship programs to award their financial aid funds. The College Board offers this service.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC): An eligibility index that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school. The EFC is calculated according to a formula specified in law and is based upon the information provided by the student and their family on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Federal Methodology: The need analysis formula used to determine a family's expected family contribution. The Federal Methodology considers the family size, the number of family members in college, taxable and nontaxable income, and assets.
Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID): An FSA ID consists of a username and password which gives you access to the U.S. Department of Education’s online systems and can serve as your legal signature when completing electronic documents, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Institutional Methodology: A formula some schools devise to determine financial need for allocating their own institutional financial aid funds.
Financial Need (sometimes called Demonstrated Financial Need): The difference between the student's Cost of Attendance (COA) and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): The free application form you submit to apply for federal financial aid. It is required for all students seeking federal student grants, work-study programs, and loans. Most colleges require it as well. The FAFSA may also qualify you for state-sponsored financial aid.
Merit Scholarship: A form of financial assistance that does not require repayment or employment and which is usually offered to students who possess certain characteristics important to the scholarship provider (examples include academic, athletic, artistic, leadership, religious beliefs, hobbies, ethnicity, etc.).
Need-Blind Admissions: The school decides whether to offer admission to a student without considering the student's financial situation.
Need-Sensitive Admissions: The school takes the student's financial situation into account for some admissions decisions. Some schools use need-sensitive admissions for borderline students.
No Loan Colleges: At No Loan Colleges, the financial aid award doesn’t include required loans; instead, the student is given only grants, scholarships, and work-study opportunities to meet their demonstrated need. Restricted No Loan Colleges: The college has set a family income threshold. Below that threshold, the student would qualify for No Loan financial aid awards.
NYS Dream Act TAP: The Senator José Peralta New York State DREAM Act gives undocumented and other students access to New York State‐administered grants and scholarships that support their higher education costs.
NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP): The New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) helps eligible New York residents pay tuition at approved schools in New York State. Depending on the academic year in which you begin study, an annual TAP award can be up to $5,665. Because TAP is a grant, it does not have to be paid back.
Preferred Filing Date (sometimes called Priority Filing Date): The date by which your application – whether it’s for college admission, student housing, or financial aid – must be received to be given the strongest consideration. Since financial aid is often limited, meeting the priority date is important to be eligible to receive funds.
Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP): Satisfactory academic progress is the process a school uses to determine if a student is meeting all of his or her educational requirements and is on target to graduate on time with a degree or certificate. This process may vary across schools.
Student Aid Report (SAR): The official notification sent to students after submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that tells you what your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is.
Verification: A federally mandated process to confirm the accuracy of data provided by selected applicants on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To complete the verification process, the student, their parent(s), or spouse, if applicable, are required to provide certain documents to the school for review. If the documentation the student provides the institution doesn't match what was reported on the FAFSA, verification can result in changes to the student's financial aid eligibility, and/or financial aid offers.