It’s time to start asking questions. You can start the conversation, so make it happen. If there’s something you’re not sure about, speak up and ask somebody. A counselor or mentor. An older friend. Maybe even a teacher you really trust.

We’ve listed some of the most common questions, and some answers to get you started in the right direction.

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Do I have to have really good grades to get help paying for college?

Actually, most financial aid is based on need, not grades. The first step to getting aid is showing that need by filling out and submitting a FAFSA. Click over to our “Paying for College” section for more details about FAFSA and need-based financial aid.

Am I going to be one of the only students depending on financial aid?

The truth is that more than half of current college students rely on at least some form of financial aid, whether it’s a savings plan, scholarship, grant, loan or work-study program. Find out how you and your family might develop a plan to pay for college in our “Paying for College” section.

Will I have to repay all my financial aid money after college?

Typically, the only financial aid you are responsible for repaying is a loan. Scholarships and grants are awarded to you and are not repaid, as well as any money you receive through work-study. To learn more about the different types of financial aid and what your responsibility may be down the road, click over to our “Paying for College” section.

Financial Aid Checklist

Before you start researching and applying for financial aid, help yourself stay organized by collecting all your personal information ahead of time and reviewing each option carefully with your family before making final decisions.
Review federal, state and private loans, grants and scholarships you may qualify for
Collect personal identification (driver’s license, Social Security Number, proof of citizenship, birth/naturalization certificate or U.S. passport)
Collect important financial documents (tax returns, bank statements, etc.)
Identify FAFSA submission deadlines
Complete FAFSA after January 1
Review your Student Aid Report (SAR) (should arrive 4-6 weeks after you submit FAFSA)
Submit SAR corrections immediately if information is incorrect


What’s the secret to a great college essay?

There’s no magic formula for writing exactly what an admissions officer wants to see, but your best bet is always to be yourself. Let your essay be a unique reflection of your personality, your interests and your perspective on something you’re passionate about. For more tips on writing an essay that will boost your chances of getting in, click over to our “Additional Resources” section.

What am I going to learn by visiting a college that I can’t find out on its website?

Visiting schools in person before you apply gives you a chance to meet people who are there every day, whether as students, professors or staff. There’s no substitute for getting to ask questions and explore the campus in person, so make time for these valuable trips. To learn more about planning a campus visit, click over to our “Campus Visit Checklist”.

Once I apply during senior year, do my grades still count after that?

It’s very important to keep working hard in school, even after you submit your applications. Colleges will request your second semester grade report later on, and it can have an effect if they see your grades dropped. For more tips about putting your best foot forward leading up to college, check out our “Student Timeline” and click “12th Grade”.


If my parents are divorced, does that mean I won’t get the same financial aid as somebody else?

Financial aid is primarily based on financial need that you demonstrate by filling out and submitting a FAFSA. Your situation at home may actually qualify you for more aid, not less, if you live in a single-parent household, for instance. Every situation is different, though, so the best thing to do is submit a FAFSA and find out what your Expected Family Contribution will be. The FAFSA is available in the “Forms” section.

Does it hurt my chances of getting into school if I’m the first in my family to apply?

While it’s true that certain schools may look favorably on “legacy” students whose parents or relatives previously attended, most every school is going to judge your application primarily based on your own individual merit. In fact, being a first-generation student is an inspiring story — consider writing about your experience in a personal essay. Find more resources for first-generation students by clicking here.

What if my parents won’t listen to my argument for going to college?

If your parents or family disagree with you about college, it can be challenging — but there are things you can do to convince them to support your goal. If money is the primary concern, you can investigate your financial aid options (see “How To Pay”) and be prepared to share what you find with your parents. If striking out from home and leaving behind a family business is an issue, talk to your parents about how college can give you the skills you need to support yourself and perhaps build your own business someday. See “Talking To Family” for more tips and advice about college conversations at home.