Paying for College: Where Do You Begin?

Posted on: November 7th, 2013   by Kaycee Hale

You’re the creative type. You know that you’re going to college, but you can’t decide on which creative major to pursue. Should you go into fashion, interior design, digital arts, entertainment, entrepreneurship, or one of the other awesome careers? Begin by taking the career test.

Next, you start to think about paying for college. You’re not certain what the process is or where you should begin. Learning the language of the process is Step #1. Let’s begin with some of those words.

The following words and definitions will help you and/or your parents understand the process more.

  • Award Letter: You will receive an award letter from the college(s) to which you have applied and been accepted around mid- to late April. This official notification will outline the financial aid package you’re being offered. Remember that you must have completed the FAFSA/Free Application for Federal Student Aid and have received your SAR/Student Aid Report first. Your award letter provides you with information about the cost of attendance and the financial aid the college has awarded you to help pay these costs.
  • EFC/Expected Family Contribution: This is considered a measure of your family’s financial situation and how much it plans to cover toward your college costs. It’s based on a specific formula which takes into consideration your family’s taxed and untaxed income, its assets, benefits, as well as the size of your family and the number of family members attending college during that specific year. It’s how much your family will contribute to your college cost.
  • FAFSA/Free Application for Federal Student Aid: This acronym is the most important one on the list. Filling out your FAFSA should be at the top of your priority list if you intend to go to college. It is the universal application for federal student aid and determines the amount of money that you will get. Fill out the application online.
  • Federal Student Aid. This is actually an office of the U.S. Department of Education. It is also the largest form of student aid in the country. This program provides grants, loans, and work-study funds from the federal government to eligible students enrolled in colleges, career schools, and graduate schools.
  • Federal Student Aid PIN. Your electronic PIN/Personal Identification Number serves as your identifier to all access to personal information in various U.S. Department of Education systems. It acts as your digital signature on some online forms. You can request a PIN online.

See my next post for additional words to add to your “paying for college” vocabulary.

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