Financial Aid & Scholarship Information
Investing in a College Education
While it can seem easy to view all the financial burdens of college as an EXPENSE, it’s important to remember that a college education is an INVESTMENT.
There are countless benefits to higher education, including a better quality of life, higher income potential, and greater lifetime earnings from employment.
There are several important areas all families need to understand in order to get the most out of their investment, including a breakdown in costs, information about financial aid, and scholarship opportunities.
The Costs of a College Education
When we talk about paying for college, it’s important to know where your money is going!
Here are the primary expenses you’ll need to budget for when planning for college:
Tuition and Fees
These are the costs of your education. They may vary based on your academic program and number of credit hours. If the tuition is not the same for all full-time students, you may have to calculate your own tuition based on the charge per credit hour. The tuition charge will appear on the bill.
Room and Board
Many colleges require incoming students to live on campus and choose a meal plan. The charges will vary depending on the room and meal plan you choose. If you plan to live off campus, you’ll need to make your own estimate of these expenses.
Books and Supplies
This expense covers your course materials. Books are usually purchased a few days before classes begin and they can be several hundred dollars.
The costs for things like laundry and telephone fall under personal expenses. Eating out, trips to the store, and even some campus activities can build up quickly! Keep careful track of what you have and budget accordingly.
The cost of travel is usually not added to the budget unless the student lives more than a few hundred miles away from campus.
Introduction to Financial Aid
There are several different kinds of financial aid available to students. There are four major sources of financial aid listed below.
Federal Student Aid
Federal Student Aid is the largest provider of student aid in the nation. Every year, they award over $150 million in federal grants, loans, and work-study programs to more than 15 million students. Students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to qualify.
Go to www.fafsa.ed.gov for more information about federal aid and to access the FAFSA.
NOTE: Make sure to use the website listed here – there are FAKE FAFSA WEBSITES that charge money. These sites are not legit! The FAFSA is free!
Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA)
PHEAA is a national provider of student financial aid services, serving millions of students and thousands of schools through its loan guaranty, loan servicing, financial aid processing, outreach, and other student aid programs. PHEAA is also how students get aid from the PA state government.
Go to www.pheaa.org for more information about Pennsylvania state aid.
Aid from Colleges/Career Schools
Many colleges offer financial aid from their own funds. Find out what might be available to you:
- Visit your school’s financial aid page on its website, or ask someone in the financial aid office.
- Ask the department that offers your course of study; they might have a scholarship for students in your major.
- Fill out any applications the school requires for its own aid, and meet the deadlines.
Some colleges may require that you complete the CSS/Financial Aid Profile, which is an application for nonfederal financial aid that is distributed from the colleges’ own scholarship/aid programs. This information helps a college determine which of their students are in the most need of the financial aid they have to distribute.
Click here for more information about the CSS/Financial Aid Profile.
Aid from Nonprofit or Private Organizations
Many organizations offer scholarships or grants to help students pay for college. This free money can make a real difference in how affordable your education is. There are several online scholarship search tools listed on our website! Please take advantage of these to help find scholarship opportunities. Also, there are local scholarships that are awarded every year, so please check this website regularly to see any updates! All seniors will receive a scholarship bulletin several times a year in their homerooms, so keep an eye out for these too.
Introduction to Scholarships
Scholarships are awards given to students in the form of financial aid to help further their education. They can be awarded based on various criteria, which are usually specific to the organization who awards them.
There are five basic types of scholarships:
These awards are based on a student’s achievements in an applicant’s academic history, extracurricular activities (like sports or music), and community service record. The most common merit-based scholarships, awarded by either private organizations or directly by a student’s intended college, recognize academic achievement or high scores on standardized tests.
In the United States, these awards are based on the student and family’s financial record and require applicants to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify if the scholarship is a federal award. Private need-based scholarships also often require the results of a FAFSA, which calculates a student’s financial need through a formula that looks at the expected family contribution and cost of attendance at the intended college.
These are scholarships for which applicants must initially qualify based upon gender, race, religion, family and medical history, or many other student-specific factors.
These are scholarships a college or university awards to students who plan to pursue a specific field of study. Often, the most generous awards to students who pursue careers in high-need areas.
College-specific scholarships are offered by individual colleges and universities to highly qualified applicants. These scholarships, given on the basis of academic and personal achievement, usually result in either a full-ride to the college, or for a reduced rate of tuition.
Online Scholarship Finders
This website is one of the leading online resources for finding scholarships. Students can sign up and have scholarship opportunities that match their future plans sent to them via email on a regular basis.
BigFuture: Grants and Scholarships
This website, from The College Board, has a great Scholarship Search tool, as well as up-to-date information about grants, scholarships, and financial aid in general.
My College Dollars
This is a great website that has information about financial aid, scholarships, and the opportunity to ask questions with experts about your specific circumstances.
This website is a database of thousands of scholarships that can be sorted in many different ways, which helps students identify awards that match them best.