• March 18, 2022
  • Posted by General Electric Credit Union
  • 4 read

5 FAQs About Financial Aid and Scholarships

It’s no secret that college can be expensive. For the 2021-2022 school year, the average cost of tuition at a public college is $10,388.1 While this is a steep price tag, financial aid is available to help you cut costs. The guide below addresses some common questions you may have about these options so you can take action for your future. 

Common questions about financial aid and scholarships 

What’s the difference? 

Scholarships are often merit-based. Leadership roles, extracurricular activities, academic performance, or philanthropy are common factors institutions look at when reviewing applications. Financial aid is a broad term that includes scholarships, but also loans, grants, and more. 

How do I apply?

You can apply for many scholarships online. Often, they will have eligibility requirements, such as a certain GPA or standardized test score. Along with personal information, you may also need to complete a series of prompts or an essay. Note that many scholarships have strict deadlines. Mark your calendar to ensure you don’t miss the cut off – and the chance to potentially curb the cost of a higher education! 
Many prospective students also fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which assesses whether financial assistance is needed. Collect the documents and information needed to complete this form, which may include but are not limited to:

  • A Federal Student Aid Identification Number (FSA ID), which you can create here
  • The social security number of the prospective student and their guardians. 
  • The applicant’s driver’s license. 
  • The code for the school you’re applying to. 

The federal FAFSA deadline is June 30th every year. State and college deadlines differ, so double check these ahead of time.  

Does applying for financial aid affect my chances of getting accepted? 

Applying for financial aid will not negatively impact your chances of getting into a school you apply for. In fact, many colleges and universities practice “need-blind admissions,” meaning financial need is not a factor in the admissions process.  

What are the income requirements for financial aid?

There is technically no set cap on income when it comes to qualifying for financial aid – that’s why it’s so important to apply no matter your financial situation! That’s not to say, however, that income isn’t a factor at all. The expected family contribution (EFC) estimates how much a student and their family can be expected to contribute toward the cost of higher education during the award year. 
Note the number of children a family has enrolled in college is no longer a factor after the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020. 

How can I avoid scams? 

Scam scholarship websites are out to steal your money and your identity. Some red flags to look out for include: 

  • Fees. Legitimate scholarships will never ask you to pay an application or processing fee. 
  • Unfamiliar origin. If someone contacts you that you’ve won a scholarship you never applied to, this is a sure sign of a scam. 
  • Odd requests. Never give your bank account numbers or credit card information to a scholarship website – this information is not part of the application process and could result in unauthorized charges or a drained bank account.

GECU wants to put higher education in reach, which is why we created the Cunningham Memorial Scholarship. Over the past 25 years, our program has awarded more than 125 students with over $231,000 in scholarships. In addition to being a primary member of GECU, applicants must have a strong academic record and volunteer experience. 

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