Financial Aid Tips for Seniors


Tania Paz

Danielle Smith working on college applications.

Melissa Mateo

Although Cal state applications and UC applications have already been submitted, students applying to out-of-state colleges or private universities are still pondering over the Common App, The online undergraduate college application accepted by over 400 independent and private colleges and universities. Each school has a different deadline.

For those patiently waiting to hear back from the school of their dreams, it is important for them to use this time to not only keep their grades up, but also to occupy themselves with scholarship applications.

First thing first, all seniors going to college should be helping their parents get ready to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). In order to fill this form out, the student’s parents or guardians should have filed 2014 taxes, or at least have the information at their fingertips. According to, FAFSA is the “largest provider of student financial aid in the nation.”

The application helps determine how much money the student’s parents will contribute and how much money the students will need to pay for college, thus giving students access to government-funded money.

FAFSA provides more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans, and work study every year to more than 13 million students who are in college or in a vocational school.

Filling out the FAFSA form is not the only way that students can receive financial aid, but it is the most important. Websites like provide millions of scholarship opportunities ranging from $50 to 25,000 or even more. Other websites are:,,, and These are a few of the hundreds of online resources that can help you get money for college.

Throughout this financial aid process, students will be hearing the terms “need-based” and “merit-based.” The difference is that need base is determined by financial need and nothing else. It is all based on the assets and income from the student’s family or their own income if they are independent from their parents or guardians. This is where FAFSA comes in most of the time. Need based financial aid includes grants, loans and work-study.

“Merit-based” financial aid on the other hand is determined by the student’s talents, school grades, test scores, etc. Most of merit-based aid comes in the form of scholarships. Most are independent companies, organizations or individuals.

When applying for financial aid, students should talk to their college counselors as well as their parents to help decide which financial aid package is best fit for them. Students are usually offered a mixture of grants (money that you do not have to pay off), loans (money that you have to pay back), scholarships (money that you do not have to pay back) and work study(you work and they pay you ) as part of their financial aid packet.

It is important that students know the difference between unsubsidized and subsidized loans when making their final decisions. The main difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans is that the federal government pays the accumulating interest on subsidized loans, while you are in school. You must pay all interest on loans labeled unsubsidized.