Scholarships & Financial Aid

The finances of applying to and paying for an education can be complicated and confusing. But, don't let that deter you from going to college - you deserve to reach for your dreams! Our members are excited to help you understand and find financial aid. Keep reading to learn about all things scholarships, financial aid, and money. 

The Financial Aid Dictionary

  • COA - Cost Of Attendance, typically includes tuition, room, board, transportation, and books/supplies fees to attend a college
  • EFC - Expected Family Contribution, a number calculated by the FAFSA that represents how much your family is expected to be able to reasonably contribute per year towards college expenses; NOT the exact amount that your family will or must pay but rather an estimate to base financial aid packages off of
  • FAFSA - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, typically available on October 1 and due on June 30th every year; must be filled out every year
  • Federal Pell Grant - A need-based grant for low-income students; requires the FAFSA to be submitted
  • Financial Aid Award Letter - A letter from a college about your financial aid package from that college
  • Financial Aid Package - A collection of different types of financial aid, including grants or loans, from a college that you have applied to. You do not have to accept each source of financial aid
  • Financial Need/Gap - This is the difference between what college will cost and what your family can pay, often closed or reduced by financial aid
  • Types of Financial Aid
    • Grant - Does NOT need to be paid back and typically depends on financial need
    • Loan - Must be paid back and may have interest rates
      • Subsidized Loan - the federal government will pay interest on the loans while a student is in school
      • Unsubsidized Loan - the student or family will pay interest on the loans while a student is in school
    • Scholarship - Does NOT need to be paid back and may depend on merit, financial need, or other criteria
  • Work-Study - part-time employment for students that is dictated by your Federal Work-Study award; this amount is how much you can earn towards paying your contribution



  • Do apply for the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) - This is how you will get federal loans and grants from the government, and many schools also use the information to put together their financial aid packages. Many people don't think they qualify for aid, but the application is free, and you might be surprised!
  • Do stay organized - Use a spreadsheet, typed list, or online financial aid tracker to keep track of what you have applied for and what you will apply for. Check out our sample Google Sheet for tracking scholarships here. (File → Make a copy) You should also keep track of your other types of financial aid such as grants and loans. 
  • Do start applying early - Different scholarships have different deadlines and requirements, and it is always a good idea to be prepared. This way, you won't have to rush and can dedicate time to filling out applications. Take a look at our College Timeline for more info!



  • Don't stop looking at a college because of the "sticker price" - Many students don't pay the tuition amount that is found on a typical Google search. With federal financial aid, college financial aid packages, and scholarships, your family's contribution will likely be below the full tuition amount
  • Don't be scared to ask for help - The college process is complicated and can be scary, especially when dealing with money. There are plenty of resources that you can turn to for help, including schools counselors, families, friends, teachers, online chats, or by applying to one of our programs! When in doubt, reach out - you don't have to do this alone.


Learn More About Financial Aid

  • CSS Profile - The CSS Profile must be filled out to be eligible for non-federal financial aid at many universities. There is a fee to apply and send to schools, but fee waivers can be attained
  • FAFSA - Learn about the FAFSA and start applying for federal financial aid
  • FinAid FAQ - Find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about financial aid
  • NJ Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (NJ HESAA) - Apply and learn more about New Jersey specific aid

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