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Financial Aid Eligibility

US Citizens, permanent residents, and those with refugee or asylee status can apply for financial aid from the US government, most of which is distributed based on need. Non-government scholarships are available for all types of students, including undocumented immigrants. Some are based on need; others reward academic, athletic or artistic excellence, community service, or other achievements.   


  • Do I qualify for aid even if I don’t get straight A’s?

    Yes. It's true that many scholarships reward student performance in high school, but most government aid is based on financial need. Remember, if you do receive a merit scholarship, you may need to keep your grades up to renew your aid annually.

  • I’m not sure I can get financial aid because of my immigration status. Who is eligible?

    In order to be eligible for federal financial aid, you must be a US citizen, US permanent resident or eligible non-citizen (refugee or political asylee). It is your status that matters, not that of your parents or other family members. You may be eligible for financial aid regardless of whether your parents have social security numbers (see the FAFSA application question 63 for further details). If you are an undocumented student, you are not eligible for federal financial aid, but you can apply for certain private scholarships, and some private colleges have sources of scholarship funding available. You can find a list of scholarships, the majority of which are accessible to undocumented students, at the Web site for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund: ( The CUNY Citizenship & Immigration Project provides free services at 14 centers located throughout New York City. You can find additional information online: (

  • How do I know how much financial aid I am eligible for?

    When you are accepted to a college, the financial aid office at that college reviews the financial aid applications you completed and determines what types and amounts of financial aid you are eligible to receive. The college then sends you an award letter with an outline of the financial aid it is offering you. It could include grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study. This collection of resources is called your financial aid package.

    From the award letter you should be able to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount of money your family is expected to pay towards your education each year you are in school. This step helps determine how much it will cost your family for you to go to college.

    You can estimate your EFC prior to the application process by using the College Board’s EFC calculator: ( EFC factors in anticipated expenses, such as student fees, room/board, books, personal expenses, transportation, and more. There are several considerations in calculating your EFC:

    1. Family income and assets (for parents and/or students);

    2. Family size;

    3. Number of children in the family who attend college;

    4. Unusual circumstances, such as medical expenses.

    When you add up the sources in your financial aid package, you can decide if that college has offered enough financial aid to make it affordable. Sometimes one college won’t offer enough financial aid, and another one will. This is another reason why it’s important to apply to several colleges. If you choose the colleges you apply to carefully, you are more likely to end up with at least one option—and probably more—that is affordable.

  • Is my family’s income too high to qualify for aid?

    Financial aid is intended to make college available to students from many different financial situations. College financial aid officers consider family income, the number of family members in college, medical expenses and many other factors when reviewing your financial aid application. So, even if you think your family income is too high for you to qualify for aid, you should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1. This form determines your eligibility for federal and state student grants, work-study and federal loans. The best way to get an estimate of how much financial aid a college will offer you — and therefore how much you’ll really pay to go to that college — is to use the college’s net price calculator. Most colleges have these tools on their websites. Net price calculators give you an estimate of your net price for a particular college — that is, the cost of attendance minus the gift aid you might get. Learn more about net price.

  • What kinds of financial aid am I eligible for?

    You may be eligible for scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans.

  • Do I have to sign up for the draft in order to get aid?

    If you are a male age 17 ½ or older, you must sign up for the draft in order to get aid.

  • I don’t have a co-signer; am I still eligible for federal loans?

    Yes, you are eligible for federal loans without a co-signer.

  • What is the difference between a federal and a private student loan?

    Federal student loans are funded by the government and have lower interest rates. Also, you will not have to start repaying this loan until after you graduate, leave school, or change your enrollment status to less than half-time.  Many private loans have varying interest rates and may require you to start paying them back while you are still in school.  For a really helpful table that details the differences click here:

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