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How can you maximize your financial aid?

What is financial aid?

Financial aid is money intended to pay for college tuition and related expenses. Financial aid can come from the state or federal government, the college you attend and other resources. Depending on the type of aid you receive, these funds can be used to cover your college tuition and fees as well as other education-related expenses like room and board or textbooks. Like scholarships, grant money does not have to be repaid.

What are the different types of financial aid?

Financial aid can be need-based, which means you or your parents’ income qualifies you to receive additional aid. Your FAFSA will help the government and your college decide if you qualify for need-based financial aid. Financial aid can also be merit-based, which means good grades or academic standing qualify you for additional money.

Read more about the financial aid process here.

How do I qualify?

The number one thing you must do to qualify for financial aid is file the FAFSA (or Free Application for Federal Student Aid) by Indiana’s March 10 deadline. Even if you’re not sure if you will attend college in the fall, you should file your FAFSA by March 10 to make sure you won’t miss out on financial aid.

How can I increase my chances of receiving financial aid?

You must have filed the FAFSA on time to receive aid. Check with the college you attend or will attend to see if they have a deadline earlier than Indiana’s March 10 deadline.

To receive need-based aid, you must demonstrate you or your family’s income. Have all of your tax documents (W-2 forms and tax forms like the 1040) ready before you file the FAFSA.

To receive merit-based aid, you must demonstrate that you have high grades and/or a high GPA (grade point average). Double check that all colleges to which you’re applying have a copy of your high school transcript. If it’s available at your school, use eTranscript to send your transcript. Ask your school counselor or check your high school homepage.

What if I’m a 21st Century Scholar?

If you are enrolled in the 21st Century Scholars Program, you must complete all the Program’s requirements to receive partial or full tuition at a participating Indiana college. Read more to make sure you are meeting all requirements.

What if I’m graduating from high school early?

Students graduating from an Indiana high school before their senior year may qualify for the Mitch Daniels Early Graduation Scholarship.

What can I do in grades K-11?

If you’re in grades K-6, you should focus on your schoolwork. Set good habits and get good grades now so you’ll qualify for merit-based aid later.

If you’re in grades 7 or 8, find out if your family’s income qualifies you for the 21st Century Scholars Program. Scholars receive up to four years of paid tuition at an Indiana college if they meet the program’s requirements for grades, graduation and behavior.

If you’re in high school, grades are even more important because they count towards your high school GPA (grade point average). Don’t compromise good grades by taking too many tough classes, being involved in too many extracurricular activities or having poor time management. But don’t forget that colleges like to see that you challenged yourself with AP (Advanced Placement) or dual-credit classes!

What can I do if I’m already in college?

Your financial aid status can change each year. To remain eligible for financial aid, you must file the FAFSA on time each year you expect to attend college. The Indiana deadline is March 10, but your college may have an earlier deadline.

Your aid status will change when you turn 24, as you are then considered an independent adult. You may qualify for even more aid when your parents’ income is not factored into your FAFSA, so be sure to file your FAFSA on time!

Even if you didn’t qualify for merit-based aid the previous year, good grades in a single year or semester can result in additional financial aid, especially if you earn a spot on the dean’s list. Some merit-based financial aid is awarded automatically, but some scholarships require you to apply. Ask your advisor or the financial aid office about scholarships you may qualify for.

Make sure to find out about requirements for keeping financial aid you already have. Often you will have to maintain full-time student status (usually 12 credit hours per semester, although you'll need at least 15 credits per semester to finish on time) and maintain a certain GPA. Financial aid usually expires after eight semesters for a bachelor’s degree. Find out how many semesters you can receive financial aid and read about finishing faster to make sure you won’t run out of aid before you graduate. Plus, find information about Indiana's 15 to Finish campaign here.

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