Answered: Your Most Burning Questions about Financial Aid

June 07, 2016

Applying for financial aid is a complicated process to tackle for new applicants, and unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier as a college student. So, we asked some of our College Admits from Florida A&M, Howard, USC, Northeastern and JHU about their experiences applying for financial aid, taking out loans and looking for scholarships! 


Florida A&M University ‘17

Applying for scholarships is the best option when it comes to financial aid. If you have good grades and finish your FAFSA early, you can usually secure more grant money also. If you still need money, you will be offered a few loans. Take them only if you need them! Do not take out thousands extra just for the return. Remember, you will eventually have to pay those loans and some of them will gain interest. If you still need money after all these options, you will be offered a parent plus loan. Usually it is a larger sum of money. Your parent must have good credit to get this! My mom didn’t care about the money, she was just glad I’m in school with a great major. She takes out as much as I need every year. Don’t let money be the reason that stops you from going to school. There are always ways to get money. You can take out loans and scholarships that are outside of your particular university. You can also go to financial aid and talk to them about your options! Just try before you quit!


Howard University ‘17

I have been fortunate enough to not need any loans for my undergraduate career. I made sure that I attended a school that would pay for my tuition at minimum. Based on my academic performance in high school, I was offered scholarships at every school I was accepted into. Also, since I live in Georgia, I qualified for the Hope Zell Miller Scholarship. This enabled me to attend any school in Georgia and have my tuition paid for. I, however, opted for the school that would also pay for my room expenses. Money that I received from other scholarships help to pay for the remaining costs of books and fees. I recommend applying to as many scholarships as possible. Outside scholarships are a luxury because whatever money isn’t used for immediate fees (such as tuition, room, and board) are given back in a refund check. This money can be used to help pay for other school supplies that may have been overlooked such as notebooks or bed linens.


Northeastern University ‘19

Apply to as many scholarships as you can find! I got a whole lot of scholarship money and as a result I only had to take out my federal loans this year. Don’t forget that you can apply to scholarships beyond your first year. You certainly won’t get all of them but it’s like free money to me. Just invest a little bit of time (even to the smallest scholarships!) and watch the earnings build up. It’s totally worth it. Start early too so you don’t miss any deadlines on big scholarships.


University of Southern California ‘19

Sadly, applied past the scholarship deadline for USC, and I received no large scholarships. The cost to attend the University of Southern California is extremely high. My family is taking out loans to pay for my tuition, but they will not have to pay interest on them. Here’s how: they are taking the loans out from their own retirement fund. They will eventually pay themselves back, but there will be no interest paying it back because it’s not from another company or individual. I will also be participating in the work study program at USC. I’m hoping to be a tour guide or an aid to a professor at the Marshall School of Business. In addition to work study, I am paying around $2500 a year out of my own pocket, but, with summer jobs and internships, this is not going to be a problem for me.


Johns Hopkins University ‘19

Hopkins has the Bloomberg Scholarship, which eliminates all loans, and the Hodson-Gilliam Success Scholarship, which greatly reduces loans. Applicants don’t have to separately apply for either of them. The JHU financial aid website says the latter is for “outstanding students from underrepresented minority groups and others.” I received the Hodson-Gilliam Scholarship, so I guess I’m the “other” because I’m Korean which is not an underrepresented minority (especially at Hopkins where there are a lot of Koreans). As a freshman at JHU, outside scholarships doesn’t affect your aid package . You can pick in which order you want your loans and work study reduced. After that, the rest can be used towards the parent contribution for tuition and room and board. 

From sophomore year onwards, any outside scholarships will decrease your grant money, so keep in mind that freshman year is the only time you can use outside scholarships to help pay for college. A ton of people apply to the scholarships you see online, so your chances of getting one is very slim. Local ones that can be found at your high school counseling center have much less competition. However, those are often for a very limited pool of people which means you may not qualify for all of them (I didn’t qualify for any of the ones my school offered). 

Choosing where to go to college is an incredibly important decision. Make an informed choice by talking to current students on our mentorship platform. Access 60,000+ successful college application files uploaded by college students (they get paid when you view them). AdmitSee is a community of students helping students. Our goal is to bring much-needed transparency to higher education. 

About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


Browse Successful Application Files

JHU ‘19

Accepted to JHU, Cornell, Northeastern, Fordham, UMD, Wisconsin, Temple

Senior Woodrow Wilson Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins majoring in English and Writing Seminars
USC ‘19

Accepted to USC, Illinois, U Iowa, U of Minnesota

Incoming Sophomore at USC majoring in Business Administration and double minoring in Environmental Studies and Professional & Managerial Communication.
USC ‘19

Accepted to USC, NYU, UMich, UCSD, Rochester, BC, BU, Miami OH, Loyola U Chicago, Miami, U of Minnesota, Drexel, Illinois

Typical Student from Chicago who has had the best of the American/Hispanic Culture. As well, I applied to 25 schools
USC ‘19

Accepted to USC, BU, Fordham, NYU, UC Berkeley, UCSD, UCLA, Florida

Pre-med student at USC, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Theatre. In the free time I don't have, I compete on USC's Cheer team, and am more than happy to answer any of your questions about the application process!

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