Navigating the financial aid process can seem daunting, particularly if you are going through it for the first time; however, the process has become much simpler over the years and applying for financial aid can largely be completed online now. Before you begin applying for financial aid, it is helpful to have some basic knowledge about what the term “financial aid” actually means, and to be familiar with some of the acronyms and terminology you may encounter as you go through the process. In other words, you should know how to “talk the talk!”  Don’t worry, we will assume no prior knowledge!

So, what is financial aid?

Financial aid is funding that helps bridge the gap between total college costs and what a family can afford to pay. There are really two types of financial aid:

1)   merit-based aid, or grants and scholarships awarded to a student on the basis of merit (i.e. academics, co-curricular involvement, special skills, talents or characteristics they may have)

2)   need-based aid, or grants, loans and employment (often called “work study”) awarded to a student on the basis of their financial need.

A student’s “financial need” is determined through a federal needs analysis formula that calculates a student’s EFC or “Expected Family Contribution” – what the federal government expects the family should be able to contribute to the student’s education each year, based on the information the family provides on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  The EFC is the end result of the FAFSA, and, using the equation below, helps a school’s Financial Aid Office determine a student’s Financial Need.

Keep in mind, few colleges or universities are able to meet one hundred percent of a student’s financial need, so your EFC, while helpful to know, is notnecessarily equal to what your actual out-of-pocket cost will be at every college or university you receive a financial aid package from.


Where does the money come from?

There are four primary sources of financial aid (scholarships,grants,and loans) for Saint Joseph’sUniversitystudents:

  • Saint Joseph’s University
  • the federal government
  • the state in which a student resides
  • outside organizations and foundations

New full-time students who demonstrate outstanding academic and/or co-curricular achievement may be eligible to receive an SJU merit scholarship. All students who submit a complete application for admission are considered for merit-based scholarships. Students typically receive notification of most merit scholarships at the point of acceptance to the University. These scholarships are renewable annually for all 4 years as long as the student remains a full-time undergraduate in good academic standing and meets any cumulative GPA requirement or other stipulations associated with the scholarship.

For the majority of SJU’s merit scholarships, students simply apply for admission and will be considered for merit awards at the same time. However, a small number of SJU’s merit scholarships do require a separate application. These scholarships are typically awarded to students afterthey have received an admission decision. For a full list of SJU merit scholarships, visit our scholarships page.  (link:

If you file a FAFSA, Saint Joseph’s University also considers you for University need-based grant aid. Filing the FAFSA will also ensure you are considered for all types of federal and state aid, which includes grants, loans and federal work study.  The FAFSA can be filed at  Before filing the FAFSA, the student and one parent each need to obtain an FSA ID at Current high school seniors can actually file the 2019-20 FAFSA now, in fact!  Be sure to list any schools you are considering on your FAFSA so that those schools will receive your information electronically from Federal Student Aid Programs (the folks who process your FAFSA).  SJU’s FAFSA code is 003367.  Once a student is admitted to a college, they will typically receive a financial aid package from that school shortly thereafter.

I applied for financial aid, what’s next?

Evaluate the packages, select your school and then check out information on covering any remaining out-of-pocket costs. Interest-free payment plans that the school may offer, as well as the federal Parent PLUS Loan or private education loans can help cover these remaining costs.  P.S. Don’t forget to research outside scholarships.  Check out some free scholarship search sites like Early in the senior year is the best time!

-Elizabeth Rihl Lewinksy, Director of Financial Aid