Financial Aid
Financial Aid is any grant or scholarship, loan, or paid employment offered to help a student meet his/her college expenses. Such aid is usually provided by various sources such as federal and state agencies, colleges, high schools, foundations, and corporations.

Financial aid may be classified into two types based on the criteria through which the financial aid is awarded: merit-based or need-based.

Merit-based grants or scholarships include scholarships awarded by the college or university and those awarded by outside organizations. Merit-based scholarships are typically″ awarded for outstanding academic achievements and maximum SAT or ACT scores, although some merit scholarships can be awarded for special talents, leadership potential and other personal characteristics. Scholarships may be given because of group affiliation (such as YMCA, Boys Club, etc.). Merit scholarships are sometimes awarded without regard for the financial need of the applicant. At many colleges, every admitted student is automatically considered for merit scholarships. At other institutions, a separate application process is required. Scholarships do not need to be repaid as long as all requirements are met. Athletic scholarships are a form of merit aid that take athletic talent into account.

Need-based financial aid is awarded on the basis of the financial need of the student. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid application (FAFSA) is generally used for determining federal, state, and institutional need-based aid eligibility. At private institutions, a supplemental application may be necessary for institutional need-based aid.

A recent trend shows that what is purely need based aid is not entirely clear. According to the National Postsecondary Aid Survey (NPSAS), SAT scores have an impact on the size of institutional need-based financial aid. If a student has a high SAT score and a low family income, they will receive larger institutional need-based grants than a student with a low family income that has low SAT scores. In 1996, public higher education institutions gave students with high SAT scores and a low family income $1,255 in need-based grants. However, only $565 in need-based grants were given to students with low SAT scores who had low family incomes. The lower a student’s SAT score, the smaller the amount of need-based grants a student received no matter what their family income level was. The same trend holds true for higher education private institutions. In 1996, private institutions gave students with high SAT scores and a low family income $7,123 versus $2,382 for students with low SAT scores and a low family income. Thus, “institutional need-based awards are less sensitive to need and more sensitive to ‘academic merit’ than the principles of needs analysis would lead us to expect.” It has been found that increasing an SAT score in the range of 100-200 points can result in hundreds of dollars more in institutional grants and on average substantially more if one is attending a private institution.  (Wikipedia)