Earlier this week, I wrote about the importance of doing your research when it comes to financial aid. Luckily for you, Jerry (Olin ’22) has made that easy for you by developing an awesome list of questions to ask colleges about their financial aid resources and policies.
Today, I’ll be answering those questions for Olin specifically:
What forms do I need to fill out to receive financial aid, and what are the deadlines?
Olin requires the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to apply for need-based financial aid. Our deadline to receive the FAFSA is February 15. There is no application needed for the Olin Tuition Scholarship (a merit scholarship that covers half the tuition cost for 8 semesters of study) because it is automatically awarded to all admitted students.
What if I don’t think I’ll qualify for financial aid?
Not everyone will qualify for need-based financial aid, but there’s no hard-and-fast rule (like an income limit) for who does and who doesn’t. The formula is complex, and research shows that many people underestimate what they qualify for (sometimes especially those who may qualify for the most!).
So whether or not you ultimately apply for financial aid, make an informed choice and not simply an assumption. Researching how the FAFSA actually works, completing Net Price Calculators for colleges you’re interested in, and, if you’re in your senior year, actually completing the FAFSA (after all, it’s free to fill out) are great ways to educate yourself.
What does EFC (“Expected Family Contribution”) mean, and how does it relate to my financial aid package?
The Expected Family Contribution is “a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law.” Once a student completes the FAFSA, their EFC gets sent to the colleges they listed on the FAFSA. Depending on their financial aid policies and resources, different colleges use the EFC differently when creating a financial aid package for that student. This means that your EFC doesn’t actually mean the exact amount you’ll end up paying for college, as your financial aid package can vary greatly from one college to another!
At Olin, we use the student’s EFC to meet 100% of their financial need. This means that their EFC is what they would be expected to contribute toward their Olin education for the year, and the remaining costs would be covered by their financial aid package.
What forms of financial aid are offered in a financial aid package here? (grants, scholarships, loans, etc.)
Olin awards financial aid in the following order to meet students’ full demonstrated financial need: the Olin Tuition Scholarship, an optional Federal Direct Subsidized Loan, and grants (which are a form of gift aid, or “free money” that doesn’t need to be repaid, and are awarded based on a student’s financial need).
How much financial aid is offered in the form of loans, and what kinds of loans are they?
Olin includes a maximum of $3,500 per year of an optional loan in a student’s need-based financial aid package. Specifically, this loan would be the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan. Please note that students who complete the FAFSA are generally also eligible for an optional Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, but this is separate from their financial need (it’s just another available resource to help pay for college if they want it).
What are some of the pros and cons of different loans that I should be aware of?
Federal Direct loans are often considered to be the best loan options due to their favorable interest rates and protections for students (for example, students don’t have to begin repaying these loans while they’re still in school, and they have a grace period once they leave school before repayment begins).
The main difference between the two Federal Direct loans is that the subsidized version does not accrue interest while the student is enrolled in school, whereas the unsubsidized version does. So, the subsidized one is preferable, however it is need-based, so not all students qualify for it (whereas most students who complete the FAFSA are eligible for the unsubsidized one).
Other loan options include the PLUS loan, which is a federal loan available to parents of dependent students. Parents interested in this loan must apply for it, and it does involve a credit check. Alternative loans (provided by private lenders such as banks) are also available for students and parents to apply for, and their terms and interest rates vary widely.
Pros and cons for all loans are situational and depend on each student and their family’s circumstances, values, and other factors, so research and conversation are highly encouraged!
How are private or external scholarships treated?
Our policy is that the first $3,500 of outside scholarships that you receive goes toward reducing or eliminating the optional Federal Direct Subsidized Loan. If you receive outside scholarships in excess of $3,500, we will be required to reduce your Olin Need-Based Grant (if you receive one) accordingly. We take pride in our commitment to meeting 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need, and in order to meet this commitment we must ensure that your total financial resources (from all sources) do not exceed your financial need.
What if my family can’t afford the difference between the cost of attendance and (non-loan) aid?
Have an open and thorough conversation with your family about expectations regarding who will be contributing to your college costs (Will it be the parent? The student? Another family member? A combination of these?), how much are those individuals realistically willing and able to contribute, and how will this happen (Paying out of pocket? Utilizing a payment plan?). This conversation often includes exploring potential additional resources that don’t appear on your financial aid offer from a college (like outside scholarships, additional loans, working on campus, etc.). Lastly, research and think critically about the value of the education you would be investing in.
Got more questions? Contact the Financial Aid Office at email@example.com or 781-292-2215.