Financial Aid NOT Financial Aid Reference Sheet


Federal student aid comes from the federal government – specifically, the U.S. Department of Education. It’s money that helps a student pay for education expenses at a postsecondary school (e.g., college, vocational school, graduate school).

Federal student aid covers such expenses as tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. Aid also can help pay for a computer and for dependent care.

There are three main categories of federal student aid: grants, work-study, and loans.


Most basic eligibility requirements are that you must

  • demonstrate financial need,
  • be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen,
  • have a valid Social Security number,
  • register (if you haven’t already) with Selective Service, if you’re a male between the ages of 18 and 25,
  • maintain satisfactory academic progress in postsecondary school, and
  • show you’re qualified to obtain a postsecondary education by
    • having a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate;
    • passing an approved ability-to-benefit test (if you don’t have a diploma or GED, a school can administer a test to determine whether you can benefit from the education offered at that school);
    • completing six credit hours or equivalent course work toward a degree or certificate;
    • meeting other federally approved standards your state establishes; or
    • completing a high school education in a homeschool setting approved under state law.


  1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
    • For FAFSA on the Web, go to Using FAFSA on the Web is faster and easier than using paper.
    • If you need a paper FAFSA, you can get one from
      • website at (download a PDF), or
      • Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
    • You can apply beginning January 1, 2014; you have until March 2, 2014 to submit your FAFSA. But you need to apply early! Schools and states often use FAFSA information to award nonfederal aid. Their deadlines are usually early in the year. Check with the schools you’re interested in for their deadlines.
  2. Review your Student Aid Report (SAR).
    • After you apply, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report, or SAR. Your SAR contains the information reported on your FAFSA and usally includes your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is an index used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. Review your SAR information and make any corrections or changes, if necessary. The school(s) you list on your FAFSA will get your SAR data electronically.
  3. Contact the school(s) you might attend.
    • Make sure the financial aid office at each school you’re interested in has all the information needed to determine your eligibility. If you’re eligible, each school’s financial aid office will send you an award letter showing the amount and types of aid (from all sources) the school will offer you. You can compare award letters from the schools to which you applied and see what aid you can receive from each school.
Program Type of Aid Program Details Annual Amount (subject to change)
Federal Pell Grant Grant: does not have to be repaid – Generally awarded to undergraduate students who are financially needy and who have not earned a bachelor’s or graduate degree.
– Federal Pell Grant eligibility is limited to 12 semesters, or the equivalent.
Up to $5,645
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Grant: does not have to be repaid – Awarded to undergraduate students who have exceptional financial need and who have not earned a bachelor’s or graduate degree
– Federal Pell Grant recipients receive priority
– Not all colleges participate in the FSEOG program
– Funds depend on availability at the college; apply by your college’s deadline
Up to $4,000
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Grant: does not have to be repaid unless student fails to carry out service oblication, in which case student must repay TEACH Grant as Direct Unsubsidized Loan with interest accured from date grant was disbursed – For undergraduate. postbaccalaureate, or graduate students who are are or will be taking coursework necessary to become elementary or secondary teachers
– Must agree to serve, fora minimum of four years (within eight years of completing academic program), as a full-time teacher in a high-need field in a school or educational service agency that serves low-income students
– Must attend a participating college and meet certain academic achievement requirements
– For more information, see the TEACH Grant Fact Sheet at
Up to $3,716
Required budget cuts have resulted in reduced annual award amounts. For more information, go here
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant Grant: does not have to be repaid – For students whose parent or guardian was amember of the U.S. armed forces and died as a aresult of performing military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11
– Must be ineligible for a Federal Pell Grant due only to having less financial need than is required to receive Pell funds
– Must have been less than 24 years old or enrolled at least part-time at an institution of higher education at the time of the parent’s or guardian’s death
Up to $5,081
Required budget cuts have resulted in reduced annual award amounts. For more information, go here
Federal Work-Study Money earned while attending school; does not have to be repaid – For undergraduate and graduate students
– Jobs can be on campus or off campus
– Students are paid at least federal minimum wage
No annual minimum or maximum amount
Federal Perkins Loan Loan: must be repaid – For undergraduate and graduate students
– Must be repaid to school that made the loan
– 5% interest rate
Undergraduate students: up to $5,500 (total $27,500 ); Graduate and professional students: up to $8,000 (total – $60,000 including undergraduate)
Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan Loan: must be repaid Subsidized: U.S. Department of Education pays interest while borrower is in school an during grace and deferment periods; student must be attending at least half-time and have financial need; fixed rate (set annually) for new borrowers $3,500-$7,500, depending on grade level
Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan Loan: must be repaid Unsubsidized: Borrower responsible for all interest; student must be at least half- time; financial need not required; fixed rate (set annually) for new borrowers $5,500-$20,500 (less any subsidized amounts received for same period), depending on grade level and dependency status
Direct PLUS Loan Loan: must be repaid For parents of dependent undergraduate students and for graduate and professional students; students must be enrolled at least half-time; financial need not required

Unsubsidized: Borrower responsible for all interest

Maximum amount is cost of attendance minus any other financial aid student receives; no minimum amount

Free Help Available


At, “Help” buttons on every page of the online application will take you to additional help. You can also click the “Live Help” button to chat with a customer service representative directly online between the hours of 8am and midnight Eastern time.

For additional information, go to the online version of Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid at This guide covers a range of topics, from preparing for college to repaying student loans.


For help toll-free between the hours of 8am and midnight Eastern time, call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

In Person

Talk with your high school counselor or contact the financial aid office at your college or career school.

Looking for more sources of free money?

Try  and for free online scholarship searches.