Finacial Aid for Students

Guides students through the process of locating and applying for financial aid. Prepared by the Congressional Research Service for Members of Congress, updated January 2011.

The Basics: Getting Started

  • Start gathering information early.
  • Free information is readily available from:
    High school counselors
    College and career school financial aid offices (where you plan to attend)
    Local and college libraries
    Student Aid on the Web (U.S. Department of Education)
    Other Internet sites (search terms student financial aid OR assistance)
  • Ask questions: counselors may know if you have exceptional circumstances that affect your eligibility.
  • Keep copies of all forms and correspondence: you must reapply for aid each year.

Student Aid and Where it Comes From

Basic Assistance Categories:

  • Financial need-based
    Remember that students and their parents are responsible for paying what they can -- financial aid is a supplement, not a substitute, for family resources.

  • Non need-based
    Factors include academic excellence, ethnic background, or organization membership. Corporations may also offer assistance to employees and children.

Federal Student Aid:

  • Provides nearly 70% of student aid under Loans, Grants and Work/study programs.
  • Available to all need-based applicants; some loans and competitive scholarships for non need-based.
  • "Congressional" scholarships:
    • Named for Member of Congress or other prominent individual (such as Byrd Honors Scholarships, Fulbright fell