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Explaining Financial Aid

Give your students the whole picture on paying for college

You don't need to be an expert, but you do need a basic understanding of college costs and financial aid. Your students and their families rely on you to explain exactly what financial aid is — and how it can help them to afford college. It's even better when you can provide them with authoritative sources on costs, aid applications, scholarships and loans.

Our website offers a wealth of information on financing college educations. You'll get the details on what types of aid are available and how to help your students get it.

Financial aid in a nutshell

Financial aid makes up the difference between what college costs and what a family can afford to pay. Approximately two-thirds of full-time undergraduate college students receive some sort of financial aid.

There are three main types of financial aid:

  • Loans that have to be repaid
  • Grants and scholarships that don't have to be repaid
  • Employment programs, such as work-study, that allow students to earn money and gain job experience while still in school

Guides and handbooks

Many publications are available that can explain more about the financial aid process. Here are two free resources for your counseling library:

Funding Your Education: The Guide to Federal Student Aid, published by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), is one of the most comprehensive resources on student financial aid, covering major aid programs, including Pell Grants, Direct Loans and PLUS Loans.

The Federal Student Aid Handbook includes the Application and Verification Guide and volumes titled Student Eligibility; School Eligibility and Operations; Calculating Awards and Packaging; Processing Aid and Managing Federal Student Aid Funds; Withdrawals and the Return of Title IV Funds; and Managing Campus-Based Programs.

College Board Publication

Getting Financial Aid explains how students can get financial aid to help pay for college. It provides the financial aid picture for each of more than 3,000 colleges.

Financial aid websites

These useful sites are all administered by the U.S. DOE.

Federal Student Aid is a good starting place for students planning for college and looking for financial aid.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) takes students line-by-line through the financial aid application process.

Financial Aid Overview has links to many useful sites on this topic.

Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP) consolidates guidance, resources and information related to federal student aid.

Customized Entry Pages

For Families

Families can find basic information on what college really costs, how to go about saving for college, and special savings opportunities, such as 529 plans.

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