Financial aid is available to help families pay for college. Every student should apply for financial aid, regardless of income. You won’t know what financial aid you are eligible to receive unless you apply.
Types of Financial Aid
There are four basic types of financial aid: grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and loans.
Grants are aid that you are given by the federal or state government, your college, or another institution that you will not need to repay. Grants are typically need-based aid (awarded based on a student’s financial need).
A need-based grant available to undergraduate students
A need-based grant available at some colleges
A need-based grant for Maine undergraduate students attending schools in Maine
Institutional/College GrantsThese vary by college. To learn more about grants your school may offer, contact the financial aid office.
Scholarships come from a variety of sources. Many schools offer scholarships based on academic performance, special talents, or other criteria. Private or outside scholarships are offered by various organizations and can help bridge the gap between the cost of college and your financial aid offer and reduce the amount you borrow. Get started on your scholarship search early with FAME’s Maine Scholarship Search.
Work-study is aid that provides an opportunity for you to work part time, on or off campus, while you are attending school. Funding is provided by the federal government or your college.
Loans are aid you will need to repay. Loans are borrowed from the federal government or a private lender. Federal loans generally have lower interest rates and better terms.
How to Apply for Financial Aid
You don’t have to be accepted to a school before you apply for financial aid. No matter what your income, you should apply for financial aid — many schools offer institutional financial aid to students who don’t qualify for federal aid.
Begin by checking with all the schools you are applying to for their financial aid application requirements. While many of the steps for applying for financial aid are similar regardless of the school you are planning to attend, deadlines differ among schools and some schools require additional forms.
As part of your application for financial aid, you will have to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA.
The FAFSA is an online application that is used by all colleges to determine eligibility for federal and state financial aid. Many colleges also use the FAFSA to award their own funds.
Every student who is even considering attending college in the next year should file the FAFSA. Students must complete the FAFSA each year to be considered for financial aid.
FAME has pulled together everything you need to know about filing the FAFSA.
CSS/Financial Aid Profile®
Some of your colleges may use CSS Profile to determine eligibility for their own funds, such as institutional grants and scholarships.
Check with all of the colleges you are interested in to see if they use CSS Profile and what their deadlines are. If they require the CSS Profile, you will need to fill it out in addition to the FAFSA.
CSS Profile becomes available on October 1 of each year. Learn more at CSS Profile.