College is expensive.  But there is help available in the form of financial aid and scholarships. The total cost of college to you and your family may not be as high as it seems at first glance. However, you must be aggressive in researching aid packages. Also, the sooner you begin thinking about how to pay for college, the more opportunities that may be available.  While all colleges offer financial aid packages the amount that they offer is individual to the school and your family income. Remember, colleges are not required to fund your education.


    Financial Aid is broken down into two categories: Need-Based Aid and Merit-Based Aid.

    Need-Based Aid is awarded based on your financial need. Eligibility is based solely on the assets and income of the prospective student and his or her family. Factors such as test scores or athletic ability have no bearing on need-based aid. This need is determined by the college using financial documentation you provide and could include any of the following:

    • Federal Pell Grant: Pell Grants tend to go to students with major financial need. The maximum award for the 2018-2019 school year is $6,095.
    • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG):You can receive between $100 and $4,000 per year through the FSEOG program. However, only some colleges participate.
    • Direct Subsidized Loan: Interest will not start accruing on these federal loans until you’re out of school and the six-month grace period has ended.
    • Direct Unsubsidized Loan: Interest will start accruing on these federal loans immediately.
    • Federal Work-Study: This program provides you with a part-time, on-campus or off-campus job, so you can earn money to put toward school or living costs.

    Merit-Based Aid is awarded based on a variety of talents and interests: academic, artistic, athletic, and the list goes on. Scholarships are the most common type of merit-based aid (though some do have a need-based component), which may come from the school or from outside sources. A student with extensive assets and income is just as entitled to a merit-based award as a student with limited assets and income.

    Each college manages their financial aid policies differently, ranging from only granting need-based aid, to have having large merit scholarships available for many students. Researching individual school policies can help determine the appropriate school for your family’s financial situation. Most colleges give out financial aid packages that are a combination of Grants or Scholarships (money that does not need to be paid back), Loans (usually paid back after graduation) and Work-Study (which requires the students to earn money by working on campus). Although there are a handful of schools that pledge to meet 100% of need, it is unusual to have a financial aid packaged filled entirely of grants and scholarships. In order to get financial aid for college, you must complete applications.  

    Below are the applications you may be required to complete:

    The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

    All schools will require that families requesting financial support complete the FAFSA. To apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, work-study, and loans, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and easier than ever, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.

    Tuition Assistance Program/Excelsior Scholarship

    There is money available for qualified students who stay within New York State for college.  In order to qualify, the state will ask families to complete the TAP application.  This form can be located on the NYS Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) website, or also through a direct link after completing the FAFSA.   For families whose income is less than $125k, but do not qualify for the full TAP amount, the Excelsior Scholarship will pay for the remaining TUITION balance.  There are some requirements and commitments involved, so please read through the information before applying.

    CSS Profile

    Some schools will ask for additional information through the CSS Profile.  This Collegeboard form, asks for a lot of additional information that the FAFSA does not request.  The rule of thumb is that schools that request this application usually have more money to give, which is why they need more information before making decisions.   If parents live apart, a school may also ask for a Non-Custodial form. Our recommendation is for you to check the individual school websites for instructions and deadlines.

    Individual School Financial Aid Applications:

    Some colleges issue their own financial aid forms.  This tends to be the case with smaller schools or for International Applicants.  However, it is best to always check with the financial aid office of each college to which you apply to learn what it requires!!


    Your eligibility depends on your Expected Family Contribution, your year in school, your enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school you will be attending. The financial aid office at the college will determine how much financial aid you are eligible to receive.

    • The financial aid staff starts by deciding upon your cost of attendance (COA) at that school.
    • They then consider your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
    • They subtract your EFC from your COA to determine the amount of your financial need and therefore how much need-based aid you can get.
    • To determine how much non-need-based aid you can get, the school takes your cost of attendance and subtracts any financial aid you’ve already been awarded.

    You can see what the government determines your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to be by completing the FAFSA Forecaster.  

    You can see an estimate of how much money you will be awarded at a particular college by completing the individual school’s Net Price Calculator.  Every college is required to have one, but the level of detail varies on the calculator they use. If you have any questions, you should reach out directly to the financial aid office at the college in question.


    Irvington University:

    This program, which occurs every May, consists of multiple workshops to choose from regarding the college process.  With information for all high school families at different stages in the process, one popular workshop is entitled “Understanding the Financial Aid Process” is a great one to start with to familiarize yourself with the process..

    The Moving Pieces of Senior Year:

    At the beginning of every school year, Irvington High School hosts the event: The Moving Pieces of Senior Year: Nuts & Bolts + Paying for College for parents/guardians and students. The second half of this workshop will go over the basics of financial aid as well as update you on the most current information. There will also be an opportunity to ask personal questions and get contact information for a current financial aid officer.