Paying for College

Although a year at most colleges, especially if living costs are included, starts at about $11000 and can exceed $65000, the good news is that if you need financial aid to help meet college costs, you are likely to receive it. There are no guarantees, of course, but a staggering amount of federal, state, institutional, and local financial aid is made available every year. Families need to be cognizant of costs. But most students in need of aid (who apply) receive all or part of what they require to attend their first-choice college. Remember, cost should never be a deterrent in choosing the colleges to which you will apply.

Financial Aid

Keep in mind that some student aid funds are limited so be sure to apply as early as possible and follow institutional deadlines.

  • A helpful document from highlighting the important steps in the Financial Aid process is linked here
  • Some schools require submission of the CSS Profile for Financial Aid consideration. Please check to see if this is required for any schools your student is applying to. The CSS profile is available online now here.
  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available in early October. Do not fill it out until that time as there are slight changes year to year. There are, however, worksheets available online now if you wish to get an estimate or start assembling the information you will need to complete the FAFSA.
  • Even if your family does not qualify for Federal Student Aid, some schools require the completed FAFSA in order for your student to apply for work study or research positions. Please check with the college or university to find out if this information will be required for your student.


Many college/university merit-based scholarships and organizational scholarships have December deadlines so now is a good time to start your search. To get you started, two of the many online databases are linked below. Please be careful to avoid scams, and never ever share Social Security or credit card information on scholarship websites or applications.

  • The first place to look for scholarships is the colleges and universities where your student is applying.
  • North Carolina Wake County Scholarship Guide is a remarkable resource that is updated weekly by Wake County Public School Counselors here in North Carolina. For example, once on the website, if you select “Search for a Scholarship” and type in “Cary” or “Raleigh”, many local scholarships will display. National Scholarships are included on this site as well. Searches by source, discipline, and deadline are also available.
  • Fastweb is a national scholarship database which enables your students to match their interests with merit and need-based scholarships nationwide. It does tend to generate a lot of emails once your student has created a profile, so it may be in their best interest to use an email address other than their school account.

Financial Aid “FAQs” and Figures

Financial Aid Presentation