Basic financial aid questions

<p>I am highly confused by the whole process, and I have a slew of questions. Feel free to answer only some of them. The more important ones are:</p>

<li><p>Do I have to apply for school specific scholarships (the ones with all the funky names) or am I automatically considered through my common app or FAFSA or CSS PROFILE or whatever they use?</p></li>
<li><p>How do outside scholarships come into the equation?</p></li>
<li><p>I am a National Merit Scholar Semifinalist but what does that actually entail with regards to scholarship money?</p></li>
<li><p>When people say they have a "full ride" does that mean they literally pay $0?</p></li>
<li><p>I am applying to different level schools (NU, Chicago, ivies, USC, Emory, UMich, CUNY, SUNY) so what kinds of major differences will arise in the financial aid application process?</p></li>
<li><p>Any tips in general for an obvious newbie?</p></li>

<p>Thanks a lot for any input. I am so lost and the deadlines are coming up and any help is greatly appreciated.</p>

<p>6. Any tips in general for an obvious newbie?
Read the threads marked IMPORTANT.

<li><p>It depends on the school and scholarships. Some are automatically applied, some require additional applications. Same for the FAFSA/CSS profile requirement.</p></li>
<li><p>If the money goes into your student account, the FA may use that to reduce your loan portion. Usually, you are allow to have a total financial aid up to the level of CoA, sometimes with a small extra. </p></li>
<li><p>You may be able to get NMSC, private company, or school sponsored scholarships. This is a big YMMV as half of the NMF do not get anything. The money would be treated like other scholarships.</p></li>
<li><p>Full ride usually includes tuition, fee, boarding, and sometimes books and other allowed expenses. Most full scholarship only cover tuition may be fee.</p></li>
<li><p>It depends on your state residency, private vs public schools, as well as your credential. Your EFC is the same, but the need and the financial aid vary widely. Usually you can get some state aid if you are going to an in state public. For most prestigious private schools, there is no merit aid but only need based aids.</p></li>
<li><p>Any tips in general for an obvious newbie?
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<p>Read the finaid FAQ linked to above. After that, the bottom line is you have to look at the finaid and scholarship web pages for each school and each scholarship to see what the requirements are. Start a spreadsheet with requirements and deadlines and don’t miss them. You are right, they are coming up fast.</p>

<p>Also note that there is a separate sub-forum dedicated to National Merit scholarships.</p>