What is Financial Aid?

Financial aid helps students and their families pay for college. This financial assistance covers educational expenses including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. There are several types of financial aid, including grants and scholarships at federal, local, and college levels, federal work study and loans. Some financial aid is merit-based (based on student achievements in academics, athletics, etc); other financial aid is need-based (calculated based on the family's financial need).

The amount of financial aid you qualify for shouldn't be a surprise during your senior year. There are many tools available to help you predict a financial aid package well in advance:

  • The FAFSA4caster is a calculator that can give you an early estimate of your eligibility for federal financial aid.
  • The US Department of Education's College Scorecard is designed to help you search for a school that is a good financial fit. You can use the College Scorecard to learn more about a school's value and affordability (and average student debt and employment opportunities upon graduation). 
  • Colleges are required to have a Net Price Calculator on their website (often housed on their Financial Aid website) to help families and students calculate the expected cost of attendance (and predict merit-based and need-based eligibility).
  • The US Deparment of Education maintains Federal Student Aid, a very helpful website about financial aid, saving for college, and college/career exploration.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, opens on October 1 of the student's senior year in high school and must be completed to be considered for any form of federal financial aid and most financial aid from the college. This video does a great job explaining the steps for completing the FAFSA.

National & Regional Scholarships

In addition to qualifiying for need-based aid, students have the opportunity to apply for local, regional, and national scholarships based on financial need as well as merit. 

  • Local/state scholarships - an updated spreadsheet of scholarships that get shared with our office.
  • Daniels Fund Scholarship - a 4-year annually renewable college scholarship for graduating high school seniors who demonstrate exceptional character, leadership, and a commitment to serving their communities. 
  • Horatio Alger Scholarship - as one of the nation's largest need-based college scholarship programs in the country, the Horatio Alger Scholarship Program specifically assists high school students who have faced and overcome great obstacles in their lives.
  • Jack Kent Cooke Foundation - scholarships are available to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who seek to attend the nation's best four-year colleges and universities.
  • WUE - students who are residents of western states are eligible to request a reduced tuition rate at participating two and four-year college programs outside their home state.