What is Financial Aid?
You’re getting ready to go to college and you’re looking
forward to all the new experiences, making friends, and
preparing for your future. You now need to think about how
you’re going to pay for it. Now is the time to start thinking
about one of the biggest expenses and investments of your life,
a college education.
Every fall, students gather in financial aid offices across
the State of Maryland with hopes and expectations only to be
surprised at the cost of attendance. If you haven’t given much
consideration to financial aid prior to this point, it can be a
very frustrating experience. There’s nothing more discouraging
than not being eligible for an award because you missed a
deadline. Start planning now on how you are going to afford the
next few years of your life.
It’s been our experience that if you ask a student how they
are going to pay for college, they will say financial aid. Ask
them specifically what financial aid program and too many
students can only name one or two different programs. Now is the
time to learn about the financial aid process and what it
A good place to begin is by understanding the sources and
types of financial assistance. There are four (4) basic types of
financial aid offered by four (4) basic sources. However, each
type has many different programs and that is why it is important
to find out which financial assistance programs are best for
you. It will make more sense the more you read.
The four (4) basic sources of financial aid
- Federal Financial Aid - the largest source of
financial aid that offers (9) nine different aid programs;
- State - Maryland has 22 different aid programs
based on financial need, academic merit, talents, or career
choices (some programs require students to complete a
specific employment obligation after graduation);
- Institutional - colleges and universities offer
numerous scholarships, grants, and loans to students; and
- Private Sources - come from many different civic
organizations, associations, clubs, foundations, churches,
The four (4) types of financial aid are:
- Grants - awarded to students that show they have
financial need. Grants typically do not require
- Loans - a source of aid that must be repaid,
usually with interest, after you graduate or stop going to
- Employment - a program where students may work
and earn money to help pay for school; and
- Scholarships - awarded to students based on
special talents, skills or high academic achievement.
*Some loan, employment and scholarship programs have need as
If you’ve done your research properly, and applied for all
programs for which you are eligible, your financial aid package
will be a combination of the different types of aid that best
fit your educational goal. You’ll have applied for the best
financial assistance programs that offer you the most benefits
and least amount of debt. Don’t only rely on the financial aid
office at your institution to tell you what you are eligible to
receive. Have some idea of how financial aid works and learn
about what each different financial aid program has to offer.
Your college experience will be much better once you have a
solid plan on how you are going to pay for it.