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Financial Aid: What Is It?

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Financial aid is money received from an outside source intended to supplement the family and student contribution toward the cost of a college education.  Student financial aid is available from the college, state and federal governments, and private organizations.  It may be awarded based on merit or need.  Merit-based aid is awarded based on the recognition of special skills, talents or academic ability.  Need-based aid is determined based on a demonstration of financial need.

Financial aid includes three types of assistance: grants and scholarships, loans, and work-study.  Scholarships and grants, known as gift aid, include: Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program (VGAP), Virginia College Scholarship Assistance Program, Virginia Commonwealth Grant, the Part-time Tuition Assistance Program, DC Tuition Assistant Grant (DC TAG), and DC Leveraging Education Assistance Program (DC LEAP).  Loan programs enable students to borrow money for college at a low rate of interest with options to repay after graduation.  Loan programs include:  the Federal Perkins Loan (FPL), Federal Direct Stafford Student Loan (FSL), Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, and PLUS Loan. Part-time employment enables students to work part-time during periods of enrollment either on-campus or off-campus some positions are available in community service.  The Federal Work-Study program (FWSP) and NVCC Work-Study programs are available at Northern Virginia Community College. 

The FIRST step in applying for ALL TYPES OF AID (grants and scholarships, loans, and employment) is to complete the FREE APPLICATION FOR FEDERAL STUDENT AID (FAFSA). FAFSA forms are available from your campus Financial Aid Information Service Offices and Counseling Center or the College Financial Aid Office if you wish to complete and mail the paper version. The FAFSA is available online at Remember to include the school code on your application. NVCC’s school code is 003727. The Financial Aid Services brochure provides additional information on application, programs, and deadlines.


The amount of aid you receive is generally based on “NEED” which is the difference between your college expenses and the amount of money you and your family are expected to contribute.  The results of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are used to determine your eligibility for need-based student aid.