High School Seniors Week 2: Understanding Financial Aid

13 Apr

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

what is financial aid - open road

Financial Aid can be a tough concept to understand: financial = money, aid = help… So it’s free money that colleges give you to pay for your school, right? Well, kind of. Some forms of financial aid can be free money other forms of financial aid you will have to pay back.

The first step in getting financial aid is to file a FAFSA, and filing it on time. Filing your FAFSA on time is especially important so you are eligible for more types of financial aid, meaning state aid (if you’re a resident of the state where you attend college) and university aid. Once the universities you have been accepted to receive your FAFSA, they will be able to put together a financial aid award for you and calculate your estimated financial aid awards.

Financial aid consists of two main types of financial aid: gift aid and self-help aid.

Gift Aid

This refers to all scholarships and grants, or, to put it more simply, all the types of aid that you don’t have to pay back. Scholarships can be need or merit-based and students can get them from various sources. Typically, students receive scholarships either from their university or from a private donor. There are websites such as www.scholarships.com and www.fastweb.net to help students find all kinds of private scholarships. There are some pretty obscure scholarships out there, so if you look hard enough, you may even find one that fits your eccentric hobbies.

For information on grants and scholarships available to Purdue students, please visit our website.

Self-Help Aid

This type of aid consists of loans and Federal Work Study. Loans are the most common type of self-help aid; they’re also the only type of financial aid that really makes it on the news. Students are expected to pay back their student loans once they have graduated and depending on what type of loan you take, there may be interest accruing on it while you’re in school. Federal Student Loans consist of Perkins Loans and Stafford Loans. Parents may also have the option of taking out a Parent PLUS Loan to help cover any remaining costs that the student has; Parent PLUS loans are taken out in the parent’s name, so the parent is the one who is expected to pay them back. Students also have the option of taking out private student loans, which are loans they apply for through a third-party lender and are then sent to their college.

It’s important to remember that ALL LOANS HAVE TO BE PAID BACK, so always try to borrow as little as possible so you aren’t burdened with huge loan payments once you graduate college.

This may seem like a bit of a dry topic, but it is so important. Take some time and learn all you can so you’re well-informed on the financial aid you’re receiving and make sure you know what’s expected of you in order to keep the aid you get.  If this article did not answer all your burning questions make sure you do not assume an answer… give your college’s financial aid office a call.

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