Understanding Financial Aid: A Roadmap for Parents

by Allison Oster

How much financial aid can I get? And what do I need to do to get it? These are questions nearly every student and parent asks, and we know financial aid is one of the most important factors in making a college decision. The good news: many types of financial aid are available and can help make college more affordable, putting a meaningful education experience within your child’s reach.

Because the process can feel daunting, we’ve compiled resources below to help you better understand the financial aid process, steps you can take to ensure you get the best financial aid options, and what types of aid might be available to you.

It Starts with the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the first step in initiating the financial aid process and it’s typically best to submit the FAFSA in the fall, a year ahead of when you plan to start college.

Saving for College

Perhaps you’re still looking for ways to help save for college. Many resources and savings options exist to help families get an early start on putting away money toward a college fund. Tools like RaiseMe, which offers micro-scholarships, can help generate scholarship funds starting as early as ninth grade.

Understanding Loans

While some individuals shy away from loans, they can help offset college costs and are an investment in your education and, subsequently, in future job opportunities. It’s important to understand the many types of loans and their benefits as you decide which may be best for you.

Reviewing Financial Aid Offers

Once you’ve applied for financial aid through the FAFSA and start receiving those college acceptance letters, you’ll also receive a financial aid offer with an estimate of financial aid you qualify for, including scholarships, and how it reduces tuition. At APU, 90 percent of students receive some form of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, and loans. Be sure to carefully review the offer and don’t hesitate to reach out to your admissions or financial aid counselor with any questions.

Working During College

Financial aid can make a significant difference in college cost, but sometimes students need to work as well to support their education goals. Federal Work Study opportunities and on- or off-campus jobs can help pay for things like books, tuition, or even activities and outings with friends while allowing students to gain important life skills and experience in preparation for future careers.

Ready to take the next step with APU? View a breakdown of APU’s tuition and financial aid, or contact our admissions team to learn more.

Allison Oster ’01, M.A. ’05, is the senior editorial director in the Office of University Relations.