It’s a myth that most families earn too much to qualify for financial aid. Virtually everyone qualifies for some type of aid, since not all financial aid is need-based. In addition, the cost of your college or graduate school plays a role. If you attend a high-cost school, chances are you will receive more aid than if you attend a lower-cost school. The overview below will help you get a handle on the financial aid process. Use our School Search to help you find the school that’s right for you. It can be used to research schools based on specific criteria you’ve indicated, such as cost, location, and other factors.

Financial Aid – It’s Easy to Get Started

Use our Budget Calculator to determine the total cost of school, from tuition to everyday living expenses. Then use this Expected Family Contribution Calculator to figure out the difference between the cost of your education and how much your family will be expected to contribute. Whatever is left, is the amount of financial aid you will need.

Explore Your Financial Aid Options

Next, take the time to better understand the different types of aid available to you. Scholarships and Grants are the best kind of financial aid since they’re “free money” that you don’t have to pay back. FinAid and FastWEB are two useful links for gathering information on available scholarships and grants.There is also school-sponsored funding such as Federal Work-Study. These programs are government subsidized, need-based on-campus employment opportunities for students. For more information, contact your Financial Aid Administrator. If your total need isn’t met by the resources above, consider Federal Stafford Loans. These loans are awarded on the basis of financial need, and are regulated by the federal government. Finally, an alternative private loan, such as a CitiAssist® Loan, can lessen the gap between all financial aid sources and the money that you’ll need for school. Check out our Financial Aid Options page for more information.

Apply for Financial Aid

The first step in applying for Financial Aid is to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a standard federal application that is used to determine your eligibility for most forms of financial aid. Parents usually provide the tax information needed to complete this form. Send this in right after January 1, to increase your chances of getting the aid you need. Also, don’t forget to fill out all required forms for those schools to which you are applying. Be sure to send them in before the deadline. Four to six weeks after you complete and submit the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR).

The SAR is generated from the financial aid information that you provided on the FAFSA. Based on this report, the schools that accept you for admission will create financial aid award packages that will be sent to you in the mail.

Evaluate Your Offers

When you receive your financial aid packages from the schools to which you’ve been accepted, make sure you compare the offers carefully. Each will provide you with information on how much federal and state aid you are eligible for. Plus, your schools’ financial aid packages may also offer you various scholarship and grant options. Be sure to accept admission to the school of your choice by writing a letter. It’s advisable to also decline in writing to those schools you will not be attending.

Apply for Loans

If your school suggests that you apply for loans, apply for the ones that they recommend. If you still need money, Citibank’s CitiAssist® Loan can help you fill the gap.