College Counseling

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial Aid and Scholarships

College is expensive, and for many families applying for financial aid will be a major part of the application process. The SCH College Counseling team is well equipped to help students and parents navigate the process, a process which can often be cumbersome and confusing.
Some helpful tips to keep in mind:
  1. Plan ahead! If you think that you will need financial aid at any time during your college career, apply as a freshman.
  2. Request and read thoroughly all materials from colleges regarding their financial aid policies and procedures. Be sure you meet all the deadlines. A missed deadline can be costly.
  3. Make sure your list of colleges includes an economic safety school—a school that meets your academic needs and is affordable. For many students, this is a state college or university.
  4. Students who need significant amounts of aid should remember that some schools give merit-based aid. Keep those grades up and do your best on the SAT or ACT!
  5. Do not use scholarship or financial aid services that charge a fee. Comprehensive information about scholarships and financial aid is available at no cost in the College Counseling Office, local libraries, from the college’s financial aid officers, and on the Internet. Watch out for scams! There are many people out there hoping to capitalize on parents’ anxiety about paying for college. Try the following websites for scholarship information:, and
  6. When visiting colleges, you might want to make an appointment with a financial aid officer at one or two schools so that he or she can advise you on special programs, tuition plans, or loan or payment programs that might be beneficial to you. Some financial aid officers have more time to meet with parents in the summer and fall. (In the spring, they are swamped and may not have any appointments available.) Prepare your questions ahead of time and take notes during the meeting.
Financial Aid Questions to Ask When Visiting a College:
  1. Is your admissions policy “need blind”? A college that is “need blind” makes admissions decisions without regard to an applicant’s ability to pay. The “need blind” college does not review an applicant’s financial information until after an admissions decision has been made. There was a time when most colleges were “need blind,” but this policy has eroded over the past 10 years. Some colleges, while considering applicants with equal academic records who are “on the edge” of acceptance, will give preference to the student who is able to pay. These colleges are known as “need aware” or “need conscious.” You should know the policy for each school you are considering.
  2. Do you meet 100% of demonstrated need? To be eligible for financial aid, a student and the parent complete several forms (see descriptions below) and a determination is made regarding a family’s economic need. Some colleges meet 100% of your demonstrated need with an aid package that includes grants (scholarships), student loans, and work-study. Other schools do not meet full need, which is called “gapping.”
  3. What is your packaging policy? Most schools give aid packaging that includes grant money (scholarships), student loans, and work-study. Ask the following questions:
    • In general, what percentage of your college’s aid package comes in grants vs. self-help (loans, work-study)?
    • How does an aid package change over four years? Some colleges entice freshmen with large grants for the first year and then switch to a much heavier loan burden in subsequent years. Some increase in loans over a four-year period is typical, but you want to avoid a “bait and switch” situation.
    • Do you have a “preferential packaging” policy; e.g., if two students have equal demonstrated financial need, do they give more grant aid or a better overall aid package to the student who has a stronger academic profile? Do you give better aid packages to students entering certain fields of study? Do you give comparable aid offers to applicants under early and regular decision programs?
    • Do you give any type of merit-based aid (scholarships for students with high academic profiles) regardless of the family’s financial circumstances?
  4. Some schools deduct money earned in outside scholarships from your financial aid package. Some schools reduce your loan burden, but other schools reduce your grant money. Obviously, reducing the loan would be most favorable to you.
  5. What is the policy with regard to non-custodial parents and step-parents? Are they expected to contribute if financially able?
  6. Are there any tuition payments that will allow payment to be spread over a period of months?
  7. What is your policy regarding outside scholarships?

Counseling Handbook

Know Your Forms

Determine the types of forms that are required and make note of the filing deadlines. (These deadlines are frequently different from application and admission deadlines.)
  1. FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): All colleges require this form. It determines your eligibility for all forms of federal aid and the state scholarship programs. You can file FAFSA online at If you do not have Internet access, you can get a paper copy by calling the U.S. Department of Education toll free at 1.800.4.FED.AID. You can also obtain a FAFSA (PDF), which students can get at Do not complete more than one FAFSA form. Do not submit your FAFSA form before January BUT do submit your FAFSA form as soon as possible AFTER January 1.
  2. CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE: Many private colleges (along with some private scholarship programs and public colleges) require this form. Beginning October 1, the PROFILE will be available online at There is an initial application fee, which covers the costs of creating your PROFILE application and the first school report. There is a fee for each additional college to which you want information sent. You can add a college or program to your PROFILE application by going to the PROFILE homepage and clicking “Add Colleges to Submitted Application.” PROFILE registration should be completed in the fall of senior year—at least two weeks before the earliest priority filing date specified by your colleges and programs.
  3. Institutional Forms: Some colleges have their own financial aid forms in addition to the ones mentioned above. Check with each college and follow their instructions.
  4. Additional Information: If your family has a special financial need or financial circumstances that are not covered on any of the above forms, write a letter describing your situation and send it to the financial aid offices of the colleges to which you are applying. Do not attach letters or tax forms, etc., to the FAFSA or the PROFILE. They will destroy them without reading them.