What Is Financial Aid, Anyway?

For many high school students, a financial aid package may be the difference between going to college and not going at all. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that the majority of first-time college students across the United States receive financial aid – about 85 percent. So, what is financial aid, anyway?

Financial aid is any assistance you might receive to help you cover college costs, like tuition and fees, books and supplies, and room and board. There are four main types of aid: scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs. Depending upon where you go to college, most financial aid packages include a combination of these four aid types. For example, at Marshall University, students receive an average financial aid package of $11,418 each year to help cover college costs.

So, Who’s Eligible for Financial Aid?

Financial aid is given for two reasons: need and merit. In other words, if you can’t afford to cover college costs on your own, you’ll likely qualify for need-based aid. Grants, loans, and work-study programs usually fall into this category. It’s worth noting that grants, like the Federal Pell Grant, don’t have to be repaid. Loans, however, require repayment after you graduate.

If you’re a standout in the classroom, in your community, or on the field, you may qualify for merit-based aid – that’s where scholarships come in. Depending upon your GPA and SAT or ACT scores and state of residence, you could qualify for a Marshall scholarship worth up to $14,000 per year. Merit-based scholarships are usually renewable, too, as long as you keep your grades up!

Marshall also offers more than 55 private scholarships, most of which you’ll automatically be considered for when you apply and are accepted to Marshall. Interested? Marshall applications are now open, so get started on your app!

What Is the FAFSA?

To find out if you’re eligible for financial aid, the first step is to complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid – that’s the “FAFSA” you’re always hearing about. It’s really just an in-depth form that both the federal government and colleges and universities use to figure out how much aid money you’re eligible to receive.

The good news is that you only have to complete the form once a year – and it’s all online. Since there’s a limited supply of funds available, it’s always a good idea to complete the FAFSA as early as possible for the greatest chance of being awarded money for school. When you apply to Marshall, you’ll want to file your FAFSA by the March 1 priority filing date.

What If I’m Not Eligible for Aid?

Even if you think you might not be eligible for financial aid, it’s important to complete the FAFSA. While your family’s income is an important factor, family size and the number of family members in college are also considerations that determine your aid eligibility. Filing the FAFSA is the only way to truly know whether or not you’re eligible. Remember, somebody’s going to get those Marshall scholarships. It might as well be you!

How Do I Complete the FAFSA?

To complete the FAFSA, you’ll need to gather up a few documents, including:

  • Your Social Security Number (or Alien Registration Number if you’re not a U.S. citizen) and your parents’ SSN, if applicable
  • Federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned for you and your parents, if you’re a dependent student
  • Bank statements and any records of investments
  • Records of untaxed income

Once you’ve gotten those together, you’ll head on over to fafsa.gov to create a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) and complete the FAFSA online.

If that sounds a little intimidating, Marshall’s got you covered. Marshall offers a two-day FAFSA filing event on campus, with free assistance to help you complete your FAFSA. If you’re not able to make that event, Marshall’s Office of Student Financial Assistance is staffed with experts who know the process inside and out and are ready to help, because completing the FAFSA should never be a barrier to attending college. And of course, the first step is to apply to Marshall.

With competitive tuition and generous financial aid packages, Marshall University is committed to ensuring a Marshall education is as affordable as possible. Find out how you can join the Sons and Daughters of Marshall.