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Seniors, parents — don’t forget to complete the FAFSA® form before March 1

Currently, seniors are beginning to receive financial aid award packages from colleges and universities. As part of Financial Aid Awareness Month during February, students and families are reminded to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form which became available December 31, 2023. In the state of Virginia, the suggested deadline for submitting the FAFSA® is "as soon as possible after December 31, 2023" to receive priority consideration. The final deadline for submitting the FAFSA® is June 30, 2024. Many scholarships require a FAFSA® on file for distribution and offers.

Types of Financial Aid

Financial aid is money available to help cover the costs of college and career schools. This includes grants and scholarships (free money), loans (borrowed money), and work-study (earned money).


Grants Scholarships Loans Work-Study

Federal Student Aid

Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation.

Types of
Federal Student Aid

Overview of the Financial Aid Process

How to Fill Out the FAFSA Form

After the FAFSA:
What Happens Next

Components of an "Award Letter/Package" from an Institution

Understanding Award Letters/Packages

Award letters or packages provide important information about your costs of attendance to attend a particular college/university. The costs will vary by college, student, and year. These can be provided to you via email, mail, or through the institution’s student portal. Be sure to await all offers before making a family decision. National decision day is May 1st annually. 


  • Cost of attendance (COA): This is the estimated cost to attend the institution for one academic school year. This estimated amount often includes average tuition and fees, room and board, transportation, and supplies. The actual cost will be provided on your tuition bill. 
  • Expected family contribution (EFC): This is how much the family is expected to contribute to your education and is used by schools to determine financial need. The information completed on the FAFSA is used to determine the EFC. 
  • Net Costs: This is the cost of attendance minus total grants and scholarships. This is the cost per year that must be paid out of pocket or covered by loans or other aid. 
  • Scholarship and grant options: This is money that does not need to be repaid. The letter will identify which types you’ve been awarded and how much you will receive. 
  • Student/ Family Loan options: Student/Family loans are financial aid that students/families must repay with interest. These can be accepted or declined.  
  • Work study: This is a program that provide students with part-time work on or near campus. Work-study programs are funded by the federal government and are operated by the institution.  

U.S. Department of Education

Additional Resources


  • College Board:
    • College Board's CSS® Profile — An online application that collects information used by hundreds of colleges, universities, professional schools, and scholarship programs to award financial aid from sources outside of the federal government. After you submit your application, the College Board sends it to the colleges and scholarship programs you have chosen. Application has a cost and offers additional measurements for aid qualifications in disbursement of institution funds. If you qualified for a fee waiver for testing, that waiver can be used for this aid application.
    • College Board provides the Trends in Student Aid Report (October 2022), which details how much financial aid students get to help them pay for college, where that aid comes from, and how the amount and distribution of aid has changed over time. 
  • ECMC is a nonprofit corporation that provides financial tools and services, nonprofit career education and funding for innovative programs to help students achieve their academic and professional goals. ECMC Resource Guides can help students and families make informed decision about planning and paying for college.
  • Sallie Mae - Decoding Your Financial Aid Offers (PDF)
  • Virginia Alternative State Aid (VASA) — This is a free application available to Virginians who are nonimmigrants, without documentation, have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status or are otherwise ineligible to file the FAFSA and would like to be considered for state financial aid. The VASA application provides access only to state and to some institutional financial aid programs. The VASA application does not provide access to federal student aid.