As you’re going through the college search process, undoubtedly, how to pay for your education remains a big concern.  So, here’s a short blog on some of the common questions prospective students and parents often ask:

Q: What types of financial aid are available?

A: There are really two major categories of financial aid:  1) Merit-based (aid based strictly on merit, which could be academic, based on co-curricular activities, special characteristics of the student, etc.) and 2) Need-based aid (aid based on the financial need of the student and, in the case of a dependent student, the need of the family).  Merit-based aid is in the form of a grant or scholarship generally (free money that doesn’t have to be paid back) while need-based aid can be in the form of a grant, loan, or student employment (AKA work study). At Saint Joseph’s University, we consider students for our general merit scholarships at the point they are reviewed for admission.  There are some special scholarships that require separate applications and, in some cases, interviews. See for a full list.  Additionally, we offer institutional need-based grant aid for those who file the FAFSA and qualify.  Students can receive both merit and need-based aid.


Q:  How do I apply for financial aid?

A: To receive consideration for our general University merit scholarships, simply apply for admission. To receive consideration for federal and state aid and need-based University grant aid, you must file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which is available October 1, 2019 for students who will enter college in fall 2020.  The FAFSA can be filed at  Be sure to list Saint Joseph’s University (school code 003367) as a recipient school.  Also make sure you file the FAFSA using your family’s PPY (the prior prior year) tax information.  


Q:  When do I apply for financial aid?

A: Depending on what type of admission path you choose, the deadline varies.  See below for the “preferred” FAFSA filing deadline:

  • Early Action:  December 1
  • Early Decision I:  December 1
  • Early Decision II:  January 15
  • Regular Decision:  January 15


Q:  I have siblings who filed the FAFSA but didn’t qualify for any other federal or state aid at the schools they attended.  Am I required to file it?

A:  If you only want to receive consideration for merit-based aid, no, you are not required to file the FAFSA. However, we recommend that, particularly for your freshman year, you do file to see if you qualify for any University need-based aid.  Additionally, even if you want to be considered for Federal Work Study or a Federal Student Loan, then you do need to file the FAFSA. It’s free to file the FAFSA and you may be surprised about the outcome! 


Q:  Is there an income cut-off when it comes to being eligible for need-based aid?

A:  No, there is not a specific income cut-off. The FAFSA is based on a federal formula that looks at five primary factors to determine a student’s financial need: 

  • Taxable income of student (and parent(s) if dependent)
  • Untaxed Income
  • Number in the household being financially supported (this includes parents)
  • Number in the household in college on at least a part-time basis (parents don’t count here)
  • Assets (i.e. while the value of a primary residence/home and retirement plan value don’t count as assets, things like money in the bank, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, value of 529 plans for all children in the family and real estate owned beyond the primary home do)

All of these factors are plugged into a federal formula to determine what your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) is.  This number is an indicator of your financial need—it is what the government expects you and/or your parent(s) should be able to contribute annually to your education.  Keep in mind, however, schools don’t necessarily meet 100% of your financial need. In some cases they may meet less, in other cases, they may meet more, so your EFC is not necessarily your out-of-pocket cost at each college or university you are admitted to.  

Q:  How do I learn more?

A: Saint Joseph’s University regularly holds financial aid virtual information sessions and workshops at our Open Houses throughout the year.  Our next virtual information session is on Wednesday, September 25 from 7-8pm. To register for this event or any event, click here

–Elizabeth Rihl Lewinsky, Director of Financial Aid