Financial Aid

Paying for post-secondary education is one of the most important investments you will make. Regardless of your family's income, paying for college or a program is no small task. The costs of tuition, room and board, books, travel and related expenses demand some financial planning on your part. Applying for financial aid is the first step in scaling monetary hurdles.

Know what is expected when applying. Keep track of a few important guidelines to stay on top of the financial-aid application process.

  • Fill in all required information on financial-aid forms for schools, agencies or lending institutions. Do not leave blanks.
  • Sign and keep copies of all forms. Send only originals.
  • Include the correct processing fees.

Define your terms. Knowing the language will help you navigate the terms and acronyms you will encounter.

  • Acknowledgement Report: Notification sent to the student after an application form has been received by a processing agency.
  • College Scholarship Service (CSS): Service that analyzes a family's need and ability to contribute.
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC): Amount determined by the federal government that a family should provide to pay for schooling; used in determining eligibility for grants and loans.
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): Application that must be filed to determine eligibility for federal student loans.
  • Financial Aid Forms (FAF): Forms processed by the College Scholarship Service of the College Board to determine your family's financial needs and contributions; results are sent from the CSS to colleges and universities.
  • Information Request Form: Form that the federal government might send to ask for further or corrected information before approving a federal Pell Grant.
  • Payment Voucher: The part of the Student Aid Report that is submitted to the school financial aid officer to determine a Pell Grant amount.
  • Student Aid Report (SAR): Official notification of federal Pell Grant eligibility, usually received by the school and the student four to six weeks after submission of the application.
  • Verification: Process of checking financial aid applications for accuracy.

Explore sources of funding. Talk to people at home and at school and research Web sites to learn more about opportunities for financial aid.

  • Family: Discuss what role your family will play in helping to finance your education.
  • The Federal Government: Grants and loans are available to students who complete the FAFSA.
  • The State: Inquire about state-funded grants and scholarships from the Ohio Board of Regents.
  • Loans: Loans make up the majority of financial aid packages.
  • Colleges and Universities: Find out how your schools of interest distribute financial aid. Does the school consider financial need during the admissions process? Will your freshman package be guaranteed for four years? Don't be afraid to pose tough questions to the financial-aid director or advisor.
  • Private organizations and foundations: If you have particular talents or aspirations, look for organizations that award merit-based aid. Many organizations offer assistance to students who plan to pursue a certain major or help seniors from a specific region or ethnic group. Also investigate essay contests that award scholarship prizes.

Save your money. Save money from an after school or summer job and consider working while you attend school. Many financial-aid packages include on-campus jobs. Work-study programs are not only lucrative for tuition and spending money; they also provide valuable experiences.

Don't fear the numbers. Despite the potential for loans and debt, post-secondary education is worth the investment; your degree is the foundation of your future. It pays to plan a way to make the realization of your academic goals as affordable as possible.