Financial Aid & Scholarships

Financial aid is a broad term that encompasses all aspects of monetary assistance that students and their families may receive to ease the burden of the cost of college attendance. It includes scholarships, but also loans, grants and work study.

Scholarships are monetary gifts that are a reward for some achievement, merit or talent. Generally they are awarded without regard to financial need. Some colleges offer scholarships for academic excellence, some for musical or artistic talent, some for athletic ability. The scholarship may be dependent on a student maintaining the level of accomplishment while at the college or university. Scholarships may also be termed “Merit Aid.” Some colleges automatically offer scholarships to certain students, some require an additional application, interview or competition.

Scholarship Searches
Students looking for scholarships can visit several websites to learn about scholarships that may apply to them. Although there are scholarship scams to beware of, there are also several sites that offer legitimate scholarship searches.

Two major sites are:

Need-Based Financial Aid
Need based financial aid is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Through FAFSA, a family will learn of their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as determined by federal criteria and eligibility for need-based assistance.

Total cost of college attendance minus Expected Family Contribution equals Financial Need

To estimate your financial need and determine your EFC, click here:

Financial Need Estimate

Need-based aid can take several forms, including grants (money that does not have to be repaid), loans (often federally subsidized loans with low interest rates), or work study (an on campus job that may relate to the student’s major, and is excluded from the next year’s FAFSA). Some colleges even tie merit scholarships to financial need.

Many colleges and universities, including most private colleges and the University of Michigan, require an additional financial aid application, the CSS Profile.

This application digs deeper into family finances and also allows access to additional monies at the university.  Colleges that require the CSS Profile will not offer a complete financial aid package without it.

• The CSS Profile can be filed any time after October 1.

• FAFSA may not be filed until after January 1, but should be sent before February 15 to maximize available financial aid monies.

Families with special circumstances such as a sudden loss of job, retirement or changes in the family structure should contact the college financial aid office directly to determine how these factors will affect the determination of financial need.

In This Section

Recommended Books
  • College Costs and Financial Aid Handbook (The College Board)
  • The Scholarship Handbook (College Board)
  • The Government Financial Aid Book (Student Financial Services)
  • The A’s & B’s of Academic Scholarships (Leider, Anna)
  • Paying for College (Peterson’s)

 Scholarship Searches