Understanding Your Financial Aid

It is the time of year when Financial Aid packages are going out. However, there can still be a lot of confusion once you receive your package. Here are a few terms that can sometimes trip people up, and ways to find additional funding resources.

FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a form that you must submit to the federal government annually to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. If you do not submit it, you will not receive federal or school aid that is determined by financial need.

Grant: Money distributed to you by either the federal government, state, college or university, or outside organization that does not require repayment. In many cases you must have submitted a FAFSA to determine eligibility.

Scholarship: A monetary award given for academic merit or some other form of achievement that does not need to be paid back.

Student Loan: Borrowed money to pay for educational costs. This can be through a private lender or through the federal government. Federal loans require the submission of a FAFSA. Before agreeing to a loan, be sure you have examined the terms thoroughly to ensure you know important information such as repayment period, interest rate, etc.

Many students search for additional forms of funding before taking a student loan. These can be found in a variety of places.

College Websites: Most colleges will have a webpage dedicated to funding your education. These sites will list scholarships available to students attending the school.

External Scholarships: Many businesses and educational organizations will offer scholarships. Some will be specific to a certain type of student, while others will be more general.

Local Scholarships: Many local organizations, such as the Lions or Rotary clubs, offer scholarships to students from their local areas. Talk to your school counselor to learn about these and other options.

If you have questions, do not hesitate to reach out to the Financial Aid Offices at the schools you have applied to. The professional staffs there will be great assets. I encourage you to explore all of the options listed above when you are developing a funding plan for your education. Many of the scholarships offered in your local communities and businesses have a single applicant or go without being awarded each year. That is potentially your money for the taking.

Matthew Wallace, Associate Director of Enrollment Operations, received his bachelor’s degree in history from Plymouth State University in 2010 and is a current Plymouth State MBA student. In his role as the University’s assistant director of enrollment operations he has had the privilege of organizing, meeting, and/or sharing insights with over 10,000 visiting prospective students. When he’s not helping future students and pursuing his graduate degree he is an avid runner and rock climber. He lives in Meredith, NH, with his fiance and their dog and two cats.