The amount of need-based assistance for which your family qualifies is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines an individual family’s Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), which influences the amount of state and federal dollars a family is eligible to receive. Need-based monies include loans that must be repaid over time; campus employment, which allows students to earn money at campus jobs; and grants, which do not require repayment.

Merit-based aid is gift money granted according to personal achievement, regardless of financial need. These awards do not require repayment and are often funded by the colleges themselves, though many students apply for merit awards from outside donors, community, civic, and religious organization. Colleges and universities offer many different types of merit awards for academics, performing arts, writing, sports, service, and leadership. To learn more about a school’s merit scholarship opportunities, check out its website or contact the admission and financial aid office for more information.