What is Financial Aid? Definition, Categorization, Types, and How Does It Work?


Financial Aid can be defined as the monetary compensation of leverage that is given to students, or professionals in the cases where they are eligible, but are unable to afford for the particular course themselves.

Financial Aid is regarded as money that helps pay individuals pay for their college, or their career school. It can be received from the government, school, or from any other private entity that supports the cause of helping individuals progressing in their respective fields.

Financial Aid is regarded as a blessing for individuals and students when it comes to facilitating them to complete and move forward with their education and their career.

Regardless of the fact that applying for financial aid might be perceived to be a cumbersome task, yet there is absolutely no doubt to the fact that it is rightfully considered to be extremely beneficial in ensuring that the ecosystem functions properly.

Financial Aid – Categorization

In the same manner, it is also important to consider the fact that financial aid can be subcategorized into two broad categories.

Firstly, there is need based financial aid, that mainly covers expenses for those individuals and students that cannot afford paying for college, or their education themselves.

Secondly, there are merit-based financial aids that are categorized as scholarships and financial assistance that are given to individuals on ground of their exemplary academic track record.

In the same manner, financial aid can also be a lump sum money paid that does not need to be repaid.

Alternatively, financial aid can also act like a loan. Individuals can get the amount for their education against an agreement with the aid provider, which the loan would be repaid across a time period of a number of years.

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Types of Financial Aid

There are numerous different types of financial aid that are available to the applicants. The different types of financial aid are given below:

  • Grants: As far as grants are concerned, grants that are issued as financial imbursement that needs to be repaid. There is numerous different financial aid available to the users. In this regard, it can be seen that these are the type of grants that are received in the case where applicants are pursuing a particular cause, for which there are numerous different programs available.
  • Scholarships: Scholarships are also financial imbursements that are given out on records of exceptional academic track record of individuals. However, they are tougher to win, since the eligibility criteria filters out the most deserving candidates from the general pool
  • Loans: Loans are targeted to the applicants that have difficulty in paying the fee. Hence, governments provide them financial assistance, which can be repaid at a later date, once these individuals start earning.  

How does it work?

Financial Aid is often considered to be a gruesome process, which involves paperwork and documentation. Regardless of the fact that it is perceived to be a stringent process, yet there is no doubt to the fact that financial aid can actually prove to be beneficial in the longer run, if it is secured. This is only possible if there is clarity about the financial aid system, and how it works.

Firstly, it can be seen that financial aid mainly revolves around proper documentation. Therefore, when universities and colleges open up their applications, they also issue a financial aid documentation. It has all the details about the documents that need to be presented in order for the aid to be granted.


The applicant must ensure that all those documents are properly attached, and there is no misrepresentation of information. It might lead to cancellation, and blacklisting from the country wide universities, if there is any hint of malpractice or representation.

Followed by this, the department issuing the financial aid checks for all the compliance related issues. These include the academic standing scores, entrance tests performances, as well as the financial positon of the parent (or the guardian) of the applicant.

After this information has been scrutinized, the applicants who clear the eligibility criteria are called for an interview, which helps the department to second-screen the deserving candidates.

After all the relevant documentation and the paper work, they then give out the aids to individuals who deserve it the most, in order to ensure that aids are disbursed properly.

Once the aid has been given out, there is also a regular follow up to check if the aids were given out correctly, and if there is any change that needs to be reflected in the existing policy framework.

Hence, the aid that has been given out is subject to change and can be revoked without prior notice. Therefore, all applicants should ideally be aware of these situations in order to get a better idea.