Financial aid and scholarships can help make college more affordable. You might qualify for grants, federal loans, merit or athletic scholarships, need-based scholarships, work-study, or other programs that can help with college costs.

Financial aid is a process, and it’s important to stay on top of it so you don’t miss out. Learn the steps to take before, during, and after college.

Before College

Now is the time to stay on top of forms and deadlines. Make sure you complete each step on time to maximize your financial aid eligibility.

  1. Apply for financial aid: Complete the FAFSA, CSS profile, and scholarship applications. Check with each college for their financial aid application deadlines.
  2. Review your financial aid offers: You’ll get offers from colleges with your acceptance letters, or they’ll arrive after you’re accepted.
  3. Estimate your out-of-pocket cost: Figure out what you’ll need to cover using our College Financing Tool. Explore possible loan options if necessary.
  4. Consider and decide: Compare your options and financial aid packages. You don’t have to accept anything you’re offered, including student loans.
  5. Accept your financial aid offer: Time to celebrate!

Note: If you decide to take a gap year, you can defer your college acceptance but not your financial aid offer. You’ll have to reapply for financial aid and file a new FAFSA when you’re ready to start school.

During College

Don’t hit cruise control once you’re in college – you may need to stay on top of your GPA, credits, and FAFSA requirements.

  1. Maintain your financial aid eligibility: Merit-based scholarships usually require that you keep a minimum GPA. And watch your credits – you need to be enrolled half-time or full-time for many financial aid programs.
  2. Re-file your FAFSA yearly: Make sure you file your FAFSA every year. You may need to reapply for outside or private scholarships each year you’re in school.
  3. Keep looking: Continue to search for and apply for additional aid. Mark your calendar for February 1st – this is a popular date for local New Hampshire scholarships to open. Deadlines will vary. Ask about scholarships from your college or program.
  4. Have an exit strategy: Financial aid programs often have requirements for graduation, too. You may need to complete exit counseling – check with your school’s financial aid office.

After College

It’s payback time! Federal student loan repayment starts after you leave school. If you have private loans, you may have started paying them back during college. Federal student loans and some private loans give you a six-month grace period before you have to start making payments.

  1. Get clear on who, what, and when, you owe. Make sure you understand the amounts, repayment terms, and schedules for all your loans. You might want to make a list or spreadsheet to track the details and dates.
  2. Make a budget. Figure out how much you’ll need to pay each month and how you’ll handle your payments.
  3. Update your information: Make sure your loan servicer(s) has your current address and contact information.

Financial Aid for Non-U.S. Citizens

Eligible non-citizens can qualify for federal aid. You may qualify if you’re a:

  • U.S. permanent resident with an Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551)
  • Conditional permanent resident (I-551C)
  • Holder of Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) stating:
    • Refugee
    • Asylum Granted
    • Indefinite Parole
    • Humanitarian Parole
    • Cuban-Haitian Entrant

If you’re an eligible noncitizen, you must file the FAFSA and provide your Alien Registration Number (ARN) on the form. For more information, please visit: Remember, the student’s status is what counts, not their parents’ status. If you’re an eligible non-citizen student with undocumented parents, you’re eligible for federal aid. This means you should file your FAFSA.

Undocumented Students

If you’re undocumented in the U.S., you are not eligible for federal financial aid programs, and you can’t file the FAFSA. But there are other forms of financial aid available. Check with your college, or search for private scholarships that support students who are undocumented.

International Students

Government Aid

The U.S. government does not provide loans, grants, or scholarship assistance for international students. But many countries offer grants or scholarships to fund foreign study for their own nationals. Check with your country’s higher education authorities to see if you might qualify.

Private Support

Many U.S. schools offer resources to assist international students. Get in touch with the international admissions office at the schools you’re considering. Find out about financial aid application requirements. And ask if you’re eligible for any institutional or community support.

Financial Aid & Studying Abroad

Wondering how studying abroad might affect your financial aid? Find a list of international schools that participate in the U.S. federal student loan program at Read on to find out how financial aid is impacted in different study abroad scenarios.

  • If you’re attending a study abroad program sponsored by a U.S. school:
    • Federal student aid for a short period or study abroad program is processed by your U.S. school. Don’t apply for aid through the foreign school.
    • You must file a FAFSA to get federal aid. Start early to get all the paperwork done on time at both your home school and foreign school.
  • If you’re enrolled as a regular student at a foreign school (working toward a degree from the foreign school):
    • You may be able to borrow a federal student loan to attend the foreign school. To qualify:
      • You must have a high school diploma, secondary school credential, or equivalent.
      • You must be enrolled at least half time in order to receive aid.
      • You must make satisfactory academic progress (SAP) as determined by the school.
      • You must meet citizenship criteria.
      • You must have a correct Social Security number.
      • You must not be in default on any Title IV program loan (unless you have taken prescribed steps to cure the default), be in receipt of excess Title IV loan amounts or grant payments, or have property that is subject to a judgment lien for a debt owed to the United States (U.S.).

Need more help paying for college?

Scholarships can be a huge help with college costs. Take a look at Search for Scholarships and see what’s available.

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