Four Types of Financial Aid

There are four main types of financial aid for college students including grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study funds.

Grants are a type of financial aid that does not have to be repaid. Offered by the federal and state government, as well as by some institutions, grants may be merit-based, need-based or student-specific. Here are a few we recommend:
  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarships
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
  • Academic Competitiveness Grant (AGG)
  • National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant)
Like grants, scholarships do not require repayment. They are typically offered by individual institutions and private organizations and can be awarded based on a number of factors, such as academic performance, athletic ability, religious affiliation, and race, among others.

Federal Loans
Loans are money that you borrow to attend college. You must repay your loans with interest. The two main types of Stafford Federal Loans available for college students include:
  • Subsidized Loans– Subsidized student loans are available for students who have demonstrated financial need. They have slightly better terms than unsubsidized student loans because the US Department of Education pays your interest while you are in school and for a six-month grace period after you graduate.
  • Unsubsidized Loans– Unsubsidized loans are available to students regardless of financial need. Students are responsible for repaying interest during all periods.

There are also specialized student loans available, such as PLUS loans and Perkins Loans:
  • PLUS Loans – PLUS loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for expenses not covered by other financial aid options.
  • Perkins Loans– Perkins loans are school-based loans for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need.

A work-study program is a work program where you can earn money that helps you pay for school. Work-study programs provide students with federally funded jobs on campus or at other approved locations. 

Planning Websites

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Timeline for Seniors

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  • September & October

    The Profile and FAFSA forms are available online on October 1st and can be filed immediately using Prior-Prior tax information. (See Prior-Prior Year in “Financial Aid Terms”)
  • November

    The FAFSA is available online October 1st and can be filed immediately using Prior-Prior tax information. (See Prior-Prior Year in “Financial Aid Terms”)
  • January

    Complete the FAFSA as soon as possible; send the PROFILE to those schools where it is required. Submit all the required paperwork and forms for each school by the deadline date. The most common reason for being denied aid is late submission of forms.
  • February

    Check your email for your Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is the U.S. Department of Education’s reply to your submitted FAFSA; it summarizes your financial aid eligibility for federal programs. Check your email for notices from the Pennsylvania State Grant Program; you may be asked to complete the online State Grant Form (SGF) or provide other information needed to complete your application for State Grant consideration.
  • April

    Compare your student aid awards to the cost of attending the college; pay close attention to the award and be sure that you understand what part is free and what part you need to repay.
  • May

    Students can check their eligibility for a Pennsylvania State Grant by visiting Account Access at

Terms & Phrases

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  • CSS Financial Aid PROFILE

    A financial aid form produced by The College Board that is required by many private schools, especially the highly selective schools. Many of the member colleges, universities, graduate and professional schools, and scholarship programs use the information collected on PROFILE to help them award nonfederal student aid funds. This form is a two step process that begins with registering for the customized PROFILE; there is a registration fee for the application and then there is a processing fee for each college. Those students who are applying to colleges under an early decision or early action plan should register with PROFILE in October or as soon as possible. It is essential to check with the individual college to see their deadline for early applicants. Click here to view the web site for filing.
  • Demonstrated Need

    The difference between the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the total cost of attendance at a particular school
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

    The amount of money that the family is expected to contribute to college costs

    Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the financial aid form produced by the federal government that is required for all students seeking aid. It is available online October 1st and should be filed as soon as possible
  • Federal Methodology (FM)

    The method of calculating the EFC that comes from the data submitted in the FAFSA and the federal aid formula
  • Financial Aid Package

    The bundle of aid awarded by a school that may include grants, loans, and a work-study job
  • Institutional Methodology (IM)

    The method of calculating the EFC that varies by school and may depend on data submitted on the FAFSA, the PROFILE, and the school’s own aid form
  • Merit Aid

    Aid awarded by a school based purely on a student’s “merits” – special academic or extracurricular talents, not on a family’s ability to pay.
  • Need Based Aid

     Aid awarded by a school which is based on a family’s ability to pay (see Demonstrated Need)
  • Prior-Prior Year (PPY)

    Prior-Prior Year (PPY) refers to a policy enabling students and families to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) using tax information from two years ago. For example, a high school senior planning to enroll in college in fall 2018 will file FAFSA using taxes from 2016.

Scholarship Opportunities

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  • Some General Interest Scholarships and Awards

    American Legion Scholarships
    Ayn Rand Essay Contests
    Burger King Scholars Program
    Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation
    College Prowler Scholarship
    DAR Scholarships
    Dunkin' Donuts Scholarship Program
    Discover Scholarship Program
    Elks National Foundation
    Horatio Alger Scholarships
    Junior Achievement Scholarships 
    The National WWII Museum Scholarship
    The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
    The Tylenol Scholarship
    VFW Scholarship Programs
    Walmart Foundation Scholarship Programs

  • Scholarships for Minority Students

    Gates Millennium Scholarships for Minority Students
    Hispanic Scholarship Fund
    Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship
    Ron Brown Scholar Program for African Americans
    Scholarships for Minorities
    Ventures Scholars Program
  • Scholarships Sponsored by Specific Colleges

    Many colleges give merit scholarships based on the application; there is no need to complete an additional form. These colleges automatically consider all applicants for their merit scholarships. However, the links below identify special scholarships that require additional forms. As you review them, be sure to keep deadlines in mind; a late application will not be considered.
    Boston College Presidential Scholars
    Boston University
    Davidson College – Merit Scholarships
    Emory University 
    University of Michigan
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Morehead-Cain Scholars
    University of Richmond - Merit Scholarships
    University of Rochester - Merit Scholarships
    University of Virginia
    Wake Forest University - Merit Scholarships
    Washington University in St. Louis

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