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College Readiness » College Financial Aid and Scholarships

College Financial Aid and Scholarships

There are several sources for tuition assistance, including scholarships, grants, work-study, and/or loans. Most financial aid comes from the federal or state government, nonprofit foundations and private companies; the majority of aid is awarded based on financial need, though scholarships do exist for athletics, academic merit, and other specific criteria. Financial aid is distributed by the financial aid office of the college or university a student ultimately attends.
Financial Aid
To apply for financial aid, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines eligibility for federal Title IV student aid (Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Work Study, and Perkins Loans). The U.S. Department of Education will use the information on your FAFSA to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount of money your family is expected to contribute in the upcoming academic year. Once your FAFSA has been processed, you and the colleges you listed will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). Colleges will use this information to determine your financial need. Carefully review your SAR; if you find an error, you have the opportunity to make corrections.
To apply for college financial aid click here
Most colleges and universities offer their own tuition assistance packages; some colleges even have their own forms. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come first-serve basis, so it’s important to apply early (before March 15). It is unadvisable to assume that no money is available for middle and upper-income families; there are a number of factors and many complex figures at issue. Families can determine approximately how much aid they qualify for at Students who apply to private colleges generally must also complete the PROFILE form from the College Scholarship Service (CSS), available at A per-college fee and registration fee are required.Most private colleges are more expensive than public universities and students who attend public colleges in states other than their home states will pay two or three times as much as in-state students pay. The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), a program coordinated by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, allows students in the Western United States to enroll at participating public colleges at a reduced non-residential level, up to 150% of the institution’s regular resident tuition. To learn more visit
Though you may have heard that “millions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed each year,” or stories about outstanding students who didn’t receive scholarships, the fact is that most scholarships have very specific eligibility requirements, including: the student must go to a specific college; have financial need; belong to a particular club or organization; choose a specific major; have high ACT or SAT scores; belong to a specific ethnic group, race or religion; have leadership abilities; performed community service; or have overcome a great obstacle, etc.Even though obtaining a scholarship takes time and effort, students and parents who are willing to put the work into finding an applicable scholarship may find that their efforts pay off. When looking for scholarships, keep in mind the following:
  • Scholarship search services that charge a fee are rarely worth the money, and many are scams.
  • Students should locate and complete applications in his/her senior year of high school.
  • Contact the financial aid offices of the colleges you are considering.
  • Apply for local scholarships (Rotary, Kiwanis, Elks, etc.).
  • Be aware of deadlines! Scholarship applications become available throughout a student’s senior year and are often due only weeks after being publicized.
  • There is no application required for the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship. Students must earn a 2.5 GPA their first semester at a New Mexico public college or university and be enrolled full time. This scholarship only covers tuition.
  • Make sure to find out whether financial aid and scholarship awards are renewable.


For a list of the many resources that discuss financial aid and scholarships click here.



Wonder how colleges calculate financial aid need? Click here to learn more.