There are a lot of terms when it comes to financial aid and one that you may have heard is “institutional aid.” Here’s what you need to know about this form of aid.

What is Institutional Aid?

Institutional aid, unlike federal aid, is money from your college or university. It’s often available to incoming students, as well as current students in their later years of school. Loans are almost always offered by federal aid, but in most cases institutional aid is actually grants or scholarships. They don’t need to be paid back. It’s important to note that some schools will have more institutional aid than others, depending on the finances they put aside for the programs.

While most examples of this aid are directly from the college or university, some are actually from individuals, such as alumni. They use the school to administer the grant or scholarship.

Types of Institutional Aid

There are two types of institutional aid your school may grant, including need based and merit based. Need based depends on your personal and family’s finances, while merit based is determined by your grades, achievements, or extracurricular activities.

How do You Apply for Institutional Aid?

The first step to applying for institutional aid is completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. While this does allow you to see what aid the government may give you, colleges and universities also use this form to determine what need based aid, grants, loans, or scholarships they may offer you. There’s no harm done by filling out the FAFSA, it can only benefit you!

You will also want to check if your school needs other forms, such as the CSS Profile.

Before completing forms, always make sure you are checking deadlines and other requirements. You want to ensure all parties who can grant you aid have the appropriate documents in time. Don’t wait to complete your FAFSA or even your application to your potential schools. As stated before, some colleges and universities have more aid available than others. It is completely possible that they will run out of aid if you delay on submitting the needed information.

Other Steps To Take

Each school has a different institutional aid program. It’s important that you check with your potential future college regarding their programs, deadlines, and needed documentation. Some schools even require essays, interviews, or other paperwork regarding some of their scholarships or grants.

Talk with your financial aid department for the options available to you. Remember to also check back each year because some grants and scholarships are open to upperclassman and not to freshman.

Institutional aid can be a great help to many who attend college. Make sure to complete your FAFSA and check with your school to ensure they have all the needed information. You may also want to do research into your college about the scholarships available. There may be one that is perfect for you, but might require extra information such as essays or interviews. Starting with the FAFSA though is a great place to begin to discover what institutional aid you qualify for.

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