The price of attending a college or university is substantial, especially if you have to pay for school in full - meaning the full ticket price. The good news is that the majority of schools do not expect the majority of their students to pay for college without some financial assistance.
Some or all of that financial assistance can come through the college itself. They might meet a percent of your need.
Calculating Your Financial Need
The first step towards getting financial support for college is to submit the FAFSAⓇ. It doesn’t matter how much money your family makes or has; you should always submit this application. The application calculates how much your family is able to contribute to the cost of college through a detailed formula. It then subtracts this number from the official Cost of Attendance (COA) at whatever school you have applied. The result is your financial need.
Learn more about the FAFSA and how it works. You can also explore Edmit’s website for other information on filling out the FAFSA for specific needs like having a noncustodial parent, retirement plans and more.
Covering Your Financial Need
Once your school receives your demonstrated financial need information from the FAFSA, they will determine how much money they will give you to cover that need.
The amount that the school covers is your met need. This is a percent of your total need, from 0% to 100%. Whatever the school doesn’t cover is your unmet need. For example, if your financial need is $20,000, but your school says they will only cover $10,000 of that amount, your percent need met is 50%.
Some schools have a standard percent of need that they will meet for all students. In fact, there are quite a number of schools in the U.S. that guarantee 100% coverage of financial need for all of their incoming students. Check out the list of all of these schools.
Most schools can’t promise 100% coverage to all of their students, but many still guarantee to cover the majority of that need. Check out the public schools and private schools that cover the most. You can also poke around Edmit’s site for these schools by U.S. region, like the southwest for example.
You will find that plenty of schools don’t guarantee any coverage of student financial need at all, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t offer any aid. These colleges and universities probably can’t promise a lot of coverage to every student because of cost restrictions. Giving out money to students is expensive! Schools might offer more scholarship money to students they want to highly encourage to attend. So, just because your school doesn’t promise everyone aid money doesn’t mean that you won’t get some.
Furthermore, if they are a Title IV school, they likely offer at least some forms of federal financial aid. Students with any financial need - as determined by the FAFSA - will automatically be eligible for some grant money through the federal government.
Defining Your Met Need
Say a school guarantees 100% of your need met. This means that all of your financial need, as determined by the FAFSA, will be covered. But how?
This is not just a signed check for the amount of your financial need. It is a plan, devised by your college and outlined for you in your award letter. It is a financial aid package that will include some combination of scholarships, grants, loans, and work study participation. The scholarships and grants are free money that you will not have to pay back. The loans must be paid back with interest. Work study is paid during the school year through money earned working a college job. Learn more about the forms of financial aid.
If your school does not meet all of your need - perhaps only offering 60% of need met, you will be responsible for figuring out how to fill that unmet need.