Show Me The Money: Understanding Financial Aid

College is stressful enough, why worry about paying for it?! Welcome to the real world. Big investments, like college, cost a lot of money and it is up to you to make sure you understand where your money is going, even if your parents are paying for some of it. Luckily, there’s help. Every university in the United States provides some form of financial aid. Financial Aid can be more complicated than your mom having a Facebook, so it is important for you to realize that we can only cover the basics. If you have any questions about financial aid, don’t hesitate to contact a Financial Aid Advisor, even if it is just to ask a few general questions. They are the experts and this is what they do for a living- take advantage of the knowledge they are willing to hand out. In the meantime, here is a general overview of Financial Aid.

What is Financial Aid and How Do I Get It?

Financial Aid is funding that aims to help students pay for educational costs such as tuition, fees, room and board, etc. Every student must complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) annually, which evaluates your EFC (Expected Family Contribution). Every academic year, the FAFSA determines your EFC by analyzing multiple financial aspects including but not limited to: income, household size and how many students in the household are or will be attending college.

Nearly every student is eligible for some sort of aid, but the amount depends on each individual case. The FAFSA helps to determine need-based aid while the CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service Profile) helps to determine merit-based aid. At Brandeis, merit-based aid is awarded through the admissions process. Need-based aid is determined by a simple formula.

Cost of Attendance (which includes costs related to educational needs like travel costs when studying abroad or transportation costs when commuting) -EFC=Your Financial Need

What Kind of Financial Aid Do I Get?

Every year students are awarded a financial aid package. If you and your family decide that this financial aid package does not quite meet your need, then you can appeal this package. If an appeal is necessary, you must contact your Financial Aid Advisor and discuss your needs. It is important to remember that every appeal must be accompanied with documentation, which will then be taken to an Appeals Committee for review and repackaging.

The types of awards that will be in your financial aid package can vary, as well as the amounts. Here are the staple need-based federal student aid programs:

·      Federal Pell Grant: This is an award you do not have to repay. It is awarded to undergrads that have not yet completed a BA or professional degree. The maximum amount for the 13-14 year is $5645, but students qualify for a specific amount determined by their individual need.

·      Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): This is awarded usually before the Pell Grant, and is for students who have a particularly significant financial need. The maximum amount is $4000 a year, but most students do not receive more than a $1000.

·      Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans: These are loans given by the federal government. A Subsidized loan is a loan that the US Department of Education pays the interest for while you are attending school at least half-time, six months after you graduate (called a “grace period”) and during a deferment period (when an individual postpones repayment of loans).  The interest on the unsubsidized loan, however, accumulates and adds to the total amount you owe. Loans also require that you complete Entrance and Exit Counseling, which usually takes place online. It is simple and easy and gives you an opportunity to learn what your rights and responsibilities are regarding loans.

·      Federal Perkins Loan: This is a low-interest loan. Each school is funded a certain amount that they can lend to students.

·      Federal Work Study: A program that allows schools to hire students in part-time positions to help pay for their educational costs. Each school has its own financial need for FWS and is allotted a certain amount, which they then must delegate to students. Once, they run out, they cannot hand out FWS awards for that fiscal year. Please note that FWS is not money given to a student, it is an amount that the federal government will help cover when paying a student’s wages. The total FWS wages help when determining EFC for the next year.

*Remember DEADLINES. There are always deadlines regarding applications, awards, appeals, etc. so make sure you are aware of them! You are held responsible for recognizing deadlines!

This is only a brief overview of financial aid; there is much more that you can learn and tons of resources online and even on campus if you need more help understanding. Visit the Office of Financial Services in Upper Usdan if you need more help, open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. 

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