Need-based scholarships and grants are exactly what their title indicates: money for students with a financial need.
More than 85% of college students receive some form of financial aid so there is no question that there is a lot of need at colleges and universities.
How do colleges determine who has a need? And is there enough money available to satisfy that need? The Cost of Attendance minus the Expected Family Contribution equals the Student Need.
The process for determining needs-based grants begins with students filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. FAFSA asks questions about family income and assets. FAFSA then uses a formula to determine the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and sends that information to whatever colleges the student is interested in attending.
A college’s financial aid office then does the math and comes up with the amount a student needs. Students with the most need, get the most grant money.
It is important to get the FAFSA filled out as early in the calendar year as possible. Grants in some states are determined on a first-come, first-served basis. It pays to file early, even if you have to estimate the answer to some questions. Your answers can be updated later.