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Applying for Financial Aid

Pennsylvanians should start by getting in touch with PA Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).  PHEAA is a commonwealth agency which provides financial aid, information, and services, working to ease the financial burden of higher education to students, families, schools, and taxpayers of Pennsylvania and the nation.  PHEAA provides the following quick, five-step overview to financial aid.

1.  Look for ‘free’ money first, the type you don’t have to pay back, such as grants, scholarships, employer tuition reimbursement, and tuition reduction plans.  (See Non-traditional Students and Other Sources sections for information on tuition reimbursement and reduction plans.)

2.  Know your deadlines for applying for all types of aid, including federal, state, school, and other sources.

3.  Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The FAFSA is the starting point for federal, state, and school aid sources. The FAFSA is used to calculate your expected family contribution (EFC), a measure of your family’s financial strength, which is then used to determine your eligibility for financial aid.  The FAFSA determines qualification for grants, work-study programs, and loans.

4.  Compare your selected schools’ financial aid offers carefully.  Compare the ‘free money’ sources, costs to attend, and understand the long-term responsibilities of the packages.

5.  Be sure you have the money you need by knowing your education costs, both direct (tuition, books housing, meal plans, etc.) and indirect (medical insurance, personal items, entertainment, etc.).   Be smart about borrowing as you are already spending part of your future income.  Take action and select the best school and aid package that meets your needs.


Next up:  Grants & Scholarships