How Much Financial Aid Can You Get Per Semester?
A big part of college is affordability. Read here to learn about different types of financial aid and what you may qualify for.
When you're preparing for college, it helps to have a general idea of how much everything will cost. One important factor in this estimation is the amount of financial aid you might receive.
You won't know for sure until the aid is actually awarded, but learning more about the process will give you a basic idea. Let's go over the different types of financial aid and how much you can expect to receive each semester.
How Much Financial Aid Can You Get Per Semester?
The amount of financial aid you can qualify for depends on a few different factors, including your family’s financial situation and when you fill out the FAFSA.
The Pell Grant is a federal grant available for students with a demonstrated financial need.
The maximum amount available is $6,495 for the 2021-2022 school year. The amount usually increases every year to account for inflation.
Students can receive between $650 and $6,495 each year. The amount awarded is usually split 50/50 between the fall and winter semesters. However, in some cases, you can also receive 50% of the total grant amount for summer classes. Students choosing this option may reach their Pell Grant limit sooner than if they only used it for the fall and spring semesters.
The TEACH grant is awarded to future teachers who promise to work in a high-need field with a school that primarily services low-income students. You must work in one of these schools for four years within an eight-year period after receiving the grant.
The grant pays up to $4,000 a year or $2,000 a semester. Some students will be eligible to receive this grant for all four years of an undergraduate degree.
Federal Supplementary Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
Like the Pell Grant, this grant is only available for students who qualify based on need. The amount available ranges from $100 to $4,000 a year, depending on your FAFSA, and is split between the two semesters.
The FSEOG is only available on a first-come, first-serve basis, which makes it different from the Pell Grant. If you apply too late, you won’t receive a grant - even if you were eligible otherwise.
Federal Student Loans
There are two types of federal student loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Interest does not accrue on subsidized loans while you’re in school and during some deferment periods. Subsidized loans are only available for those who qualify based on need.
Loan limits differ for dependent and independent students. Dependent students receive less in total student loans than independent students.
To be considered an independent student, you must be one of the following:
● 24 years old or older
● Attending a professional or graduate school
● Veteran or current member of the military
● Orphan or a ward of the court
● Have legal dependents other than a spouse
● Emancipated minor
● Homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
If you don’t meet any of the above criteria, you’re considered a dependent student, even if your parents don’t provide financial support.
The amount available for each student is divided between the fall and spring semesters. Here’s how much financial aid students can receive per academic year:
Year in school
$5,500 (up to $3,500 in subsidized loans)
$9,500 (up to $3,500 in subsidized loans)
$6,500 (up to $4,500 in subsidized loans)
$10,500 (up to $4,500 in subsidized loans)
Third year and higher undergraduate
$7,500 (up to $5,500 in subsidized loans)
$12,500 (up to $5,500 in subsidized loans)
Graduate or professional school student
N/A (all graduate and professional students are considered independent students)
Private Student Loans
Private student loans have no set limits; the annual and aggregate amounts vary depending on the lender. The amount often differs based on your major, income, projected future income, credit score and if you have a cosigner.
Federal work-study is a need-based program where eligible students receive a work assignment, either at the university or an affiliated organization. Students are limited to working 20 hours a week, but most employers only schedule 10 to 15 hours each week.
Students are paid hourly and receive a biweekly or monthly paycheck. The exact wage depends on the college, but is usually minimum wage or slightly higher.
When you receive your award letter from the university, it will detail the maximum amount you can earn through work-study for the year, based on a 20-hour a week schedule. The exact amount depends on the employer. If they only give you five hours a week, for instance, then you will earn far below the maximum.
How to Maximize Your Financial Aid
The best way to increase your financial aid each semester is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year. The FAFSA is required for any student interested in federal student loans, work-study and grants like the Pell and the FSEOG.
If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you won’t be eligible for any of those awards. Many colleges also require the FAFSA if you want to be considered for their in-house scholarships and grants. Always fill out the FAFSA every year you attend college.
You can also appeal the financial aid awards you receive and ask for more money. This works best if your financial situation has changed recently, most commonly when one parent loses their job. Contact the university’s financial aid department, explain what happened and ask them to reconsider your offer. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, universities have been more receptive to increasing financial aid.
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins.
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