Financial Aid Terminology

Financial Aid
1. What types of financial aid are there? Financial aid is either need-based or merit-based. Need-based aid depends on the student’s family’s finances. Once financial aid forms like FAFSA is filed, the family’s EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) is determined and the school gives the student a package based on that. Merit-based aid depends on the student’s grades and test scores.
2. What is FAFSA? FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which helps determine the Federal loans and grants for which a student may qualify. The deadline to file that form is different for each school so you should check the Financial Aid page of the school’s website. There is not cost for this form, hence the name FREE. You can find the form at The earliest it can be filed is January 1 of senior year.
3. What is the CSS profile? The CSS profile is a form that some private institutions use to determine financial aid for a student. This form is found at There is a maintenance fee and then a fee for each school that requires the form. Please check the financial aid website of the school to see if the CSS profile is needed and what the deadline is. The last question of the CSS profile is where a student can write details about any extenuating family circumstances such as parents’ illness, job loss etc. It is important to write all information, even if you don’t think it’s pertinent. Let the school tell you no, rather than you miss an opportunity due to a lack of information given on your part.
4. Will I have to fill out any other financial aid forms? Depending on the school, there may be an additional form and if your parents have their own business, there may also be a form for that as well. The financial aid page of the school’s website will tell you where to find those forms and what the deadline is.
5. Is financial aid always loans? No, aid can be in the forms, of grants, scholarships and/or loans. Grants and scholarships don’t usually have to be paid back but loans do. Your school will determine a package based on a combination of all three or on just one. Each student’s package is different and may vary from year to year, depending on how the family’s finances have changed.
6. Do I have to report scholarships that are not awarded from the school? Each school has different policies regarding how to report scholarships that you receive from local and other organizations. Refer to the school’s financial aid package for that.
7. Do the school scholarship amounts remain the same each year? That depends on the qualifications of the scholarship. If it is merit based, then you may have to maintain a minimum GPA in order to receive the same amount the following year. The need-based ones will sometimes change depending on any changes in the family’s finances.
8. Are there any other places to get scholarships? Yes, you can set up profiles on and in order to periodically receive scholarship applications to which you can apply.                        9. What is an appeal letter? In some situations, students may have to fill out forms or write a letter requesting an adjustment to the financial aid package awarded, if it will not help the school to be affordable.  Follow the school’s guidelines.