Basics You Need to Know

What is financial aid? Monetary assistance that schools provide to reduce educational costs to families. Most financial aid takes the form of grants that do not need to be paid back.

Where does financial aid come from? Most is provided directly from the school and distributed on the basis of financial need.

What does “financial need” mean? Need is the difference between educational expenses — especially tuition and fees — and your family’s ability to pay those expenses.

How do schools determine financial need? They ask you to fill out financial statements that give them a picture of how much you can afford to contribute toward education. After calculating the difference between your resources and their tuition and fees, they weigh the resulting financial need against their available financial aid funds and their policies.

What is the income level at which a family is no longer eligible for aid? There is no specific income limit. If you feel you cannot pay all the costs yourself, it’s worth the effort to ask whether aid is available.

What is the timeline usually like? Be sure to ask each school for its unique deadlines. For schools that do not have rolling admissions, here are some approximate dates that many schools tend to follow:

  • September or October in the year before you want to start in the new school: Begin your school search.
  • November or December: Begin the financial aid application process.
  • January or early February: Your admission applications are due.
  • January or February: Your financial aid applications are due.
  • Late February or early March: Schools send out admission decisions.
  • March or April: Schools send out financial aid decisions.

Again: Contact individual schools for exact deadlines. Each school’s deadlines may be different!