If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Comparing colleges based on financial aid policies

College admissions expert Sean Logan emphasizes the importance of considering financial aid early in the college search process. He explains the terms "need blind" and "need aware" in admissions: "need blind" means financial aid isn't considered during admissions, while "need aware" means it may be a factor. He also discusses schools that meet 100% of demonstrated need, which can make college more affordable for students.

Want to join the conversation?

  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Jon Winder
    What types of financial aid are there?
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Nick
      The U.S. Department of Education awards about $150 billion every year to help millions of students pay for college. This federal student aid is awarded in the form of grants, low-interest loans, and work-study funds.

      Grants are typically awarded on the basis of need and generally do not have to be repaid. There are four types of federal student grants:

      Federal Pell Grants are usually awarded to undergraduate students who have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree. (In some cases, students enrolled in postbaccalaureate teacher certification programs may receive Federal Pell Grants.) The maximum Federal Pell Grant award for the 2013-2014 award year is $5,550; however, the actual award depends on the student’s financial need, the college’s cost of attendance, the student’s enrollment status, and the length of the academic year in which the student is enrolled. Students can receive the Federal Pell Grant for up to the equivalent of 12 semesters.

      Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need. The amount of the award is determined by the college’s financial aid office, and depends on the student’s financial need and the availability of funds at the college.

      Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants are awarded to students who intend to teach in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families. If the service requirement is not fulfilled, it could turn into a loan.

      Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are awarded to students whose parents or guardians were members of the Armed Forces and died as a result of performing military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001. To qualify, a student must have been under 24 years of age or enrolled in college at the time of the parent’s or guardian’s death.

      Loans consist of money that the student borrows to help pay for college, and must be repaid (plus interest). There are two federal student loan programs:

      The Federal Perkins Loan Program is a campus-based program that provides low-interest loans to undergraduate and graduate students. The amount of the award depends on the student’s financial need, the amount of other aid the student receives, and the availability of funds at his/her college.

      The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program enables students and parents to borrow money at low interest rates directly from the federal government. The Direct Loan Program includes Direct Stafford Loans, which are available to undergraduate and graduate students, and Direct PLUS Loans, which are available to parents of dependent students and to graduate and professional-degree students. A Direct Stafford Loan might be subsidized or unsubsidized. Direct PLUS Loans are always unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are based on financial need and are available only to undergraduate students. The federal government pays the interest on subsidized loans while the borrower is in college and during deferment. Unsubsidized loans are based on the student's education costs and other aid received. The borrower must pay all accrued interest on unsubsidized loans.

      The Federal Work-Study Program enables students to earn money during the school year while also gaining valuable work experience, typically in part-time, career-related jobs.

      Other forms of financial aid that might be available to students include:

      State government aid. For more information, contact the state’s higher education agency. You can find the state agency’s contact information at http://wdcrobcolp01.e http://d.gov/Programs/EROD/org_list.cfm?category_cd=SHE.

      Aid from the college. Students should contact the financial aid offices at the colleges they are considering for more information.

      Scholarships. Some states, local governments, colleges, community organizations, private employers, and other organizations award scholarships based on academic ability or other factors. For more information, visit StudentAid.gov.

      Tax credits for education expenses. For more information about the American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning tax credits, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/tax-benefits.

      Aid for the military. For more information, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/grants-scholarships/military.
      (30 votes)
  • leaf red style avatar for user Velvetia
    Hopefully not off-topic, but how much does a scholarship grant you and how do you achieve one? (what subjects)
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • piceratops tree style avatar for user Claire E. Allen
    Do most colleges take into account more than just income when giving out financial aid? For example, my parents both make enough money to support me but we have a large family and I have a sibling with Down Syndrome (lots and lots and lots of medical bills).
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user sievleanly
    Hi! I'm still not sure where I should begin when I start to do research about college. Can you tell me what should I do research first about college?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      This entire course on college admissions is excellent, and if you have gotten this far and are still not sure, I recommend that you suspend any other progress on the course and return to lesson 1, sistening all the way through to the final lesson. Pay attention to everything that the teachers and other contributors say, and take notes as you go. You're sure to get better ideas on all that you should do, and what to do first, from the entire course, than from what anyone can type into this little box.
      (4 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Juliana
    Do universities take into to consideration the currency conversion when thinking about giving international student scholarships or any other type of financial aid? What if in my country, I have a good financial situation, wouldn't need help, but when converting to dollars, the situation changes, do they consider this condition?
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • leaf grey style avatar for user bmcintosh205
    when applying to a school should one send in their financial aid request before their application
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • duskpin seed style avatar for user Harmanjot Singh
    what if a student has the skill, but doesn't have money to study?
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Misty
    What are the requirements for receiving financial aid?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user City Face
      It varies from school to school. All schools offer need-based financial aid, which is offered based on your family's income and other factors like siblings in college. Many schools also offer merit scholarships that students can compete for, or other demographic scholarships.
      (2 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user howardcm27
    At the second time marker, where would you recommend finding out what the deadlines are?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • mr pants pink style avatar for user Autumn Mastbergen
    is college hard to do if you have not alot of money to start off
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

- [Man] We are here with Sean Logan, director of college counseling at Philip's Academy. Sean, one things that students often ask themselves is, "Should I be thinking about financial aid "during the college search process, or is it something "that doesn't really come until "the very end, once I'm making my decision?" - [Sean] The financial aid piece has got to be right up front in the research process. It's a very important piece to consider. You know, a couple things with need-based aid, for most families the financial aid process is a scary process, you should never be afraid of asking what you would consider a stupid question. I've been doing this for 25 years, I still confused on how schools use their terms. So if you need things defined for you, ask the right questions until you get your questions answered. Applying for financial aid by their deadlines is critical. Many schools will exhaust their financial aid budget as they send out all their admission letters. So, if you get into a school and then decide, "Okay I'm admitted, now I'm gonna submit "my financial aid paperwork," they may not have any money left, so financial aid deadlines are critically important. And just in this research process, a couple of words that you're gonna hear, and things to think about, there's two terms you're gonna hear a lot. One of those terms is "need blind." A school might be need blind in the admissions process, or a school might be "need aware" in the admissions process. Need blind typically means that you will be admitted to the school regardless of whether or not you're applying for aid, so the school does not take into account if you're applying for aid or not. They're admitting you based on other criteria. The term need aware means that financial aid may be a consideration in the admission process. So, a school may take into account that you need financial aid, or that you don't need financial aid in the admissions process. - [Man] So I guess it sounds like if you have two students who are both sort of on the edge of getting in or not getting in to a school, and that school is need aware, then they may preference a student who doesn't need the financial help, versus a student who does. But certainly, if you're a competitive applicant, then whether or not you need financial help, the school won't care about that at all. - [Sean] Right. - [Man] Great, and one thing that I've oftentimes heard is that certain schools do meet 100 percent of need, other schools don't meet 100 percent of need. How does that sort of factor in in general, and connect with need blind versus need aware? - [Sean] Right, so if you're looking at information online or you have the opportunity to visit a school, that's a great question to ask a financial aid officer. "Do you meet 100 percent of demonstrated need?" And what that means is based on the FAFSA and the profile that you'll probably submit to that school, one or both of those documents, those documents will say that the family has a contribution amount, the college will meet the rest of your need based off of that. But, quite frankly, there's not a lot of schools that meet 100 percent of demonstrated need. - [Man] Sean, can you give me some examples of schools that are in that sweet spot? So, they are need blind, they're not gonna take into account my families financial circumstances when deciding whether to admit me or not, but once I'm in they commit to meeting 100 percent of my need so they'll make sure that college is affordable for my family. - [Sean] Sure, so, you know, one of the ways that this manifests itself is schools that have great endowments typically tend to use a chunk of that endowment towards really good financial aid packages. So, schools like Stanford University, Wellesley College, Williams College, these places that have very good endowments and put a lot of money toward financial aid fit that definition and use their resources that way. So, again, it's a really great combination when a school says "We're need blind and we meet 100 percent "of your demonstrated need," but there are many other schools that will meet 100 percent of your demonstrated need even though it's not a guarantee they give to all students. The bottom line here is, the better student you are, the stronger program you take, the better grades you get, the better financial aid packages you can avail yourself of.