College Sense: How to Pay for College
how this site works
your senior year
ask the expert
student resources
parent/family resources
contact us
Higher Education Services Corporation
New York GEAR UP
 Frequently Asked Questions

What types of aid are available to me?


  • Student Loans (Need Based)
    • Perkins Loan
    • Subsidized Stafford Loans (interest deferred while in college)
  • Student Loans (Non-need Based)
    • Unsubsidized Stafford Loans (pay interest while in college)
    • Private/Alternative Loans
  • Parent Loans
    • Federal PLUS Loan
    • Private/Alternative Loans

Need-based Grants

  • Federal PELL Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity (SEOG) Grant
  • Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) Grant

Federal Work Study

Federal Work Study is a federally funded, need-based employment program available to undergraduate students. Jobs are located on or off campus and provide students with the opportunity to find employment related to their educational interests. Average work schedules are from 10–15 hours a week, with a maximum of 20 hours. A work-study award does not guarantee you a job. Students must undergo the normal hiring process of submitting a resume and being interviewed for a work-study job.

Am I eligible for aid?

Students holding only the following visas are not eligible for federal or state aid:

  • Student Visas (F1 or F2)
  • Exchange Visitor Visas (J1 or J2)
  • G-Series Visas (international organizations)
  • Non-citizens with only I-688A or I-688B Cards
  • Non-citizens with only a Notice of Approval to Apply for Permanent Residence (I-171 or I-464)
  • Non-citizens with only Family Unity Status (Form I-797)

To be considered for federal or state aid, students must be at least one of the following:

  • United States citizen (native-born or naturalized)
  • U.S. national (includes natives of American Samoa or Swain's Island)
  • U.S. permanent resident. Must have an I-151, I-551, or I-551C (Alien Registration Receipt Card), a passport, or an I-94 Form with a stamp indicating I-551 status
  • Eligible non-citizen with an INS Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) Form with one of the following designations:
    • Refugee
    • Indefinite Parole and/or Humanitarian Parole
    • Asylum Granted
    • Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Status Pending
    • Conditional Entrant (valid only if issued before 4/1/1980)
    • Temporary Resident with an I-688 Card

How do I apply?

  • Log onto website and apply for your Personal Identification Number (PIN), or ...
    Obtain a paper FAFSA from a college financial aid office, or ...
    Call (800) 4-FED-AID
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
    • Available January 1st
    • The Priority Deadline for many colleges and universities is February 15th. Aid is given on a first come, first serve basis.

back to top >>

What happens after I apply?

Several weeks after you submit your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR will arrive by regular mail and is usually printed on blue or green paper. You should confirm that the information you submitted with your FAFSA is correct on your SAR. If there are any differences you must make the correction and submit the SAR to the address indicated. This is also the time to update any estimated tax information with your filed tax information. 

Several weeks after you receive your SAR, colleges will send you a letter with your financial aid offer.

back to top >>

What is the Expected Financial Contribution (EFC)?

Your EFC is the federal formula used to determine how much money your family can afford to contribute to your education. The EFC is used to compute the type and amount of aid you will be awarded from your college or university.

back to top >>

Do I need to be admitted to a college or university before I apply for financial aid?

No. You can apply for financial aid before being admitted. However, you must be enrolled in order to receive funds.

back to top >>

If I have to take out a loan, am I responsible for paying it back or are my parents?

The student is responsible for paying back any student educational loan. Parents are only responsible for paying back the Federal PLUS Loan.

back to top >>

Where can I find definitions of financial-aid terms?

Check out our glossary of the most common financial-aid jargon.

back to top >>
 Don't Be Afraid to Ask!