Financial aid and scholarships can reduce the cost of college. They can be based on academic merit, financial need, or other factors - and your aid will vary by school.
In 2014-15, about two-thirds of full-time students paid for college with the help of financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships.
Get the list of deadlines you need to know about.
Merit scholarships are awarded to candidates who demonstrate exceptional academic performance or exhibit some other qualification other than strictly financial need. Get our guide to finding them.
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There are a wide array of types of financial aid available to students going to school. Some are based on financial need and some on merit and they include state, institutional, and federal funds in the form of grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities, and loans.
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students wishing to receive financial aid for college must fill out this form in order to determine eligibility at each college they are applying to.
The CSS Profile is a much more robust application than the FAFSA, and allows the colleges that accept it to take a more detailed look into your family’s finances in order to calculate your aid. It's used by several hundred selective colleges in place of the FAFSA.
After a student’s FAFSA is reviewed, the federal government assigns an EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. It is the amount the government thinks you could contribute to college per year based on your financial situation. It is not necessarily the amount you will be asked to pay. Colleges use this number to determine your financial aid, but they might come back with a cost that is higher or lower than your EFC depending on their financial aid formulas.