Financial Aid Package: Your Questions Answered

by Ashley Eneriz

If you are experiencing sticker shock after seeing the cost of attending a university, you are definitely not alone. While the price of tuition can be overwhelming, know that a financial aid package can make college affordable.

In fact, according to MONEY magazine, “nearly all students qualify for federal aid” and the majority of four-year college students “receive some type of aid,” such as scholarships, grants, and loans. Still, it’s a complex subject that (understandably) raises a lot of questions for both students and parents alike.

Q: What Is Financial Aid, Exactly?

A: According to the U.S. Department of Education, financial aid is money disbursed by the federal government, state government, private organizations, and colleges to help American families pay for college. A financial aid package can be made up of the following:

  • Scholarships that are awarded based on merit, which do not need to be paid back.
  • Grants that are awarded based on financial need, such as the Pell Grant and Cal Grant. Grants do not need to be repaid.
  • Student loans (both federal and private) can cover the entire cost of attendance, but must be paid back upon graduation with interest.
  • Work-study programs provide students with federally funded jobs. For instance, Azusa Pacific University offers 24,000 on-campus and work-study programs.

Q: How Do I Get Financial Aid?

A: First things first: You’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) starting as early as October 1. The FAFSA is free and available for everyone to fill out regardless of income (APU’s FAFSA Code: 001117).

While filling out the FAFSA can be a daunting process, the online application guides you through each question. Have these documents handy to make the process go faster:

  • Your social security number
  • Your parents’ social security numbers if you are a dependent student (i.e., a student under 24 who’s unmarried)
  • Your driver’s license number
  • Tax returns for you and your parents
  • Records of untaxed income, such as child support, interest income, and veteran benefits for both you and your parents
  • Knowledge of investments, such as cash, bonds, stocks, real estate (aside from your current home), business and farm assets for you and your parents

Q: Who Qualifies for Financial Aid?

A: Students from every income bracket can receive financial aid, so don’t assume you or your parents earn too much money. It is crucial to fill out the FAFSA to be eligible for many federal and private loans.

Q: What Are Other Ways I Can Get Financial Aid, Outside of the FAFSA?

A: There are several options available to help you pay for your education. Here are just a few ideas:

  • On-campus employment: Even if you do not qualify for the work-study program, you can still apply for available on-campus positions.
  • Internships: You can find internships through your academic advisor or by searching online. A total of 70 percent of APU students participate in internships, many of which are paid. There are several remote internships available that allow you to earn money and credit no matter where you attend school.
  • Employment tuition reimbursement: If you are already employed, ask your employer if they offer tuition reimbursement or scholarships. Even part-time jobs at companies like Apple or Bank of America include reimbursement benefits. Also, check your parents’ places of employment for tuition assistance or reimbursement benefits.

Q: I Need Help With Financial Aid. Who Should I Go To?

A: Many resources are available to help make obtaining a financial aid package as easy as possible. Here are a few to start with:

Securing a financial aid package is the next step to getting the degree and career of your dreams. Don’t underestimate how much aid you can receive, and reach out to an admissions counselor with any questions.