January/February 2021
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The Language of Financial Aid

Financial Aid is a numbers-driven process ‑ the FAFSA will ask questions about your family’s income, assets, and household to ensure they are providing money equitably to all students. Although it is critical to pay attention to the numbers, it is equally as important to pay attention to the words. Here is our glossary of the vocab words for Financial Aid 101:

  1. FSA ID: An FSA ID is a username and password combination used to confirm your identity and electronically sign your federal student documents, including the FAFSA. The student and one parent each need to have an FSA ID. To create your FSA ID visit fsaid.ed.gov. Once you have created your FSA ID, you can start the FAFSA, save your progress, and log in and out as you wish.
  2. Dependent / independent student: Many students are considered “dependent” students, meaning that their parents’ financial information will be required on the form. Certain criteria would need to be met for a student to be considered “independent” including: being over the age of 24, seeking a master’s degree, being married, having children for whom you support more than 50% of the time, being a ward of the court, both parents are deceased, veteran status, currently on active duty, or in legal guardianship. Questions on your specific circumstance? Give us a call, 888-747-2383 ext. 119, and we can discuss it in depth.
  3. Special circumstances: The FAFSA only asks 130 questions, and that may not paint the whole “financial” picture for your family. You and your family may have circumstances affecting your ability to contribute to post-secondary education expenses, but there is no place to report these circumstances on the FAFSA. Some of these situations may include: loss or reduction of employment, loss of untaxed income, such as child support, separation or divorce of parents, death of a parent, unusually high medical or dental expenses not reimbursed by insurance. Be aware that colleges do NOT consider weddings, graduate school expenses for a sibling, vacations, consumer debt, or expenses related to pets to be “special circumstances.” If you want your colleges to consider your special circumstances when they award your financial aid, you must send a letter or complete the special circumstance form for each school to which you are applying. Be as detailed as possible, including dollar amounts for the items you are discussing. Check each financial aid webpage for a special circumstances form to complete and more detailed instructions or reach out to a financial aid professional with your questions. If your school requires the CSS Profile, there is a box to include special circumstances on the form.
  4. Direct Stafford Loan (subsidized and unsubsidized): Any student filing the FAFSA is eligible for the Stafford Loan from the federal government regardless of family income and assets. The interest rate for unsubsidized and subsidized loans changes yearly and is currently at a rate of 2.75% fixed. This loan does not require payment while the student is enrolled in school at least half-time. The amount of the loan increases yearly by $1,000:

    Base Annual Loan Limits:
    • $5,500 for 1st-year undergraduates
    • $6,500 for 2nd-year undergraduates
    • $7,500 for each remaining undergraduate year
    Additionally, this loan is separated into two parts: SUBSIDIZED, no interest accrues on the loan while the student is in school and UNSUBSIDIZED, interest does accrue on the loan while the student is in school. For example, $2000 of the $5500 will always be an unsubsidized loan, the rest will vary depending on the student’s need at that particular school.
  5. Pell Grant: This federal grant is awarded to eligible undergraduates pursuing their first bachelor’s degree, professional degree, or certain students enrolled in post-baccalaureate teacher certification or licensing programs. The actual award amount is based on the Cost of Attendance, Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and enrollment status. In 2020-2021, eligible students can receive up to $6,345. The EFC cutoff for Pell-eligible students in 2020-2021 was 5711.

College Image

Using a College Website

Although the pandemic has significantly changed our daily lives, students and their families are still in need of ways to effectively research colleges. Many campus tours and in-person information sessions have been replaced with a wider variety of virtual programs ranging from student panels and information sessions to website updates. College websites are typically the first way that students interact with individual colleges, but they can also provide an overwhelming amount of information. So which pages on a college’s website are a must-visit for prospective students? Here are our recommendations:

  1. Start with the homepage. This may seem obvious, but with the endless amount of websites out there, families can sometimes search for a college and end up on the incorrect site. Always make sure that you are visiting websites with the .edu domain name. You can also double-check you are on the right site by checking the navigation menu that will have options like, About Us, Academics, Admission & Financial Aid, Student Life, and maybe Careers and/or Alumni.
  2. What’s their mission and vision? The statements can tell you a lot about the history and educational philosophy of each college. You can often navigate from this page to Fast Facts ‑ read about class sizes, student/faculty ratios, graduation, and retention rates. These data will help you get an idea of how the institution’s mission plays out through the numbers. This page is a good place to start because it helps to determine if this school is a good fit for you.
  3. Take a look at the academics. Are you looking for schools with a particular major? The Academics page will tell you about academic programs and can inform your decision of adding this school to your shortlist or not. From there, do some investigating of your chosen major’s department ‑ are there research options for first-year students? What’s the laboratory/computer/studio space like for students? Are there study abroad options for students in this major? What classes are required for this major? The academics page will also provide more information on academic support services like writing and math coaching and LD support through Accessibility Services.
  4. What’s the “need-to-know” admission information? The Admission page will arguably become the webpage you visit the most. This webpage provides details on admissions requirements such as testing, average GPA (if provided), minimum academic entry requirements, and the admission rate. Do these requirements meet your academic profile? Oftentimes, colleges will provide an application checklist so students are aware of deadlines, writing supplements, auditions, essays, recommendations, interviews, and maybe a resume. Having this information well in advance will help you to prepare properly and avoid last-minute crises. Also, consider joining the mailing list to receive information on deadlines and general communications and following the schools you’re most excited about on social media.
  5. What would life be like on campus? The student life webpage will provide information on your potential home away from home. In this section, look for links to Study Abroad, Student Clubs and Organizations, faith communities, Greek Life options, on-campus work and volunteer opportunities, and campus housing. Think about what’s important to you as a person outside of academics and look for institutions with such options.
  6. Is this college affordable? Spend time researching the financial aid page and use the net price calculator to be sure that this college is a realistic option for you. Remember that sticker price is rarely what families pay for college; the net price calculator will ask for financial information and then estimate what you might receive in grants and scholarships.

Destination College Image

Destination College 2021

Where? We are going virtual again this year! Workshops and the college fair will all be held through Zoom.

When? Saturday, March 20 at 9 AM

What Can I Expect? The NHHEAF Network’s signature event is designed to help high school juniors and their families prepare for college. This annual and statewide college planning convention is held each spring through the collaborative efforts of The NHHEAF Network and New Hampshire colleges and universities. This year, we are thrilled to partner with Plymouth State University to provide FREE and safe virtual events to NH students and parents.

Attendees will have access to a variety of free college planning workshops, learn tips about the college application process from a student keynote speaker, have the opportunity to participate in scholarship raffles, and attend a college fair. Join us at Destination College 2021 and jumpstart your college planning experience!

Paying for College Image

FAQs of Paying for College

The college applications are submitted. The FAFSA is filed. Now the hard part: waiting. The down-time between submitting applications and hearing from colleges is tense. As you wait for the acceptance letters and the financial aid award packages, take the time to learn more about financial aid and what comes after acceptance. Here are the questions we hear most often from families as they prepare to pay for college:

Do I have to pay my admission deposit before I return my award letter?

The answer is no. Returning your award letter secures the financial aid the school offered, should you decide to attend; it does not commit you to attend. You can only commit by sending in the deposit. If you wish to appeal your financial aid award, you should do so before signing and returning your award letter.

When will I receive a bill from the college?

Typically bills for the upcoming fall semester will be issued in early to mid-July and will be due by the end of the summer. All financial aid, except work study, will appear as a credit on your bill. Remember that work study is money that must be earned through campus employment.

What can I expect in terms of financial aid for future years?

You'll be required to complete the FAFSA and other supplemental forms each year. If the information that you provided on the FAFSA remains the same, your total financial aid award will likely remain consistent. It is possible that some grants or scholarships are only valid for one year, so ask each school about their specific policy.

Can I borrow for more than the direct cost of my school (books, supplies, etc.)?

The quick answer is yes, however students should budget to cover the cost of immediate indirect expenses. Refunds from financial aid are usually not available until enrollment has been confirmed after the add/drop period, around one month into the semester. Think about saving money from a summer job to make sure you have plenty when the fall rolls around to cover books, rent, transportation, etc.

Can I negotiate an award letter?

This is a tough question because the answer is Yes and No. All schools have a formal appeals process. However, the school has done its best to create an equitable financial aid policy that offers the maximum possible aid to each student. However, if you have experienced a major change in circumstances since filing the FAFSA (such as parent’s loss of a job, marital status change, disability, etc.), or if you made a mistake when completing the financial aid forms, you should contact the Financial Aid Office to make them aware of the situation. In either case, an appeal would be appropriate. In addition, if there is a family circumstance that you feel the Financial Aid Office should know about, please contact them in writing. Although there is no guarantee that the Financial Aid Office can make any changes, it is always best to give them all the information they may need to make a decision.


The application for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is now open! The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is the state's most extensive source of private scholarships, awarding more than $6 million in scholarships to over 1,500 students in 2019. To be considered for scholarship money, the following components are required: (1) an electronic copy of the FAFSA - if you have not yet filed, call us at 888-747-2382 ext.119 to schedule an in-person appointment for help; (2) an electronic copy of your high school transcript; and (3) email addresses for the individuals willing to write a letter of recommendation. The Foundation will also consider non-academic or non-need-based factors such as community service, school activities, and work experience. Highest priority is given to students with the fewest financial resources.