College Planning

Students and Parents attend Bootcamp and filled out FAFSAFinancial Resources

College Savings Calculator

There are many online calculators available to help you understand the cost of college. Here are few to get you started. Don't let the sticker price scare you. There are many ways to pay for college. 

Financial Aid - FAFSA

What is Federal Financial Aid?

Financial aid from the federal government can help you pay for education expenses at an eligible college or career school. Grants, loans and work-study are types of federal student aid. You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to apply for this aid. Types of Federal Aid video is a helpful video that explains the difference between types of federal aid available to students. Additional information about federal student aid can be found on the Federal Student Aid website.

Who Should Apply for Need-Based Financial Aid?

All students should apply for need-based financial aid. Many families mistakenly think they may not qualify for this type of aid based on their income and assets. However, if students choose not to apply for need-based financial aid, they may be closing the door on opportunities that could help pay for college. There are other sources of financial assistance available regardless of need, but most require that the student file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) first.

How Does A Student Apply For Need-Based Financial Aid?

  • The FAFSA is the form used to apply for need-based financial aid. The student must complete the FAFSA to apply for need-based grants, as well as for federal financial aid and other aid from colleges. Students must apply every year.
  • The FAFSA4caster is a tool designed to assist families to plan for education beyond high school.  Students can receive an estimated Expected Family Contribution (EFC) by entering their information into FAFSA4caster, a simplified version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  FAFSA4caster also provides guidance on next steps for applying for admission, applying for federal student aid, and paying for education beyond high school. A Spanish version is available.
  • College Goal WI College Goal Wisconsin is affiliated with a national event that provides free information and assistance to families who need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) the federally required form for students seeking financial aid, such as grants and loans. Completing the FAFSA is the first and most important step in qualifying for aid.

ScholarshipsMandela Barnes and Tammy Baldwin present award to student

Scholarships are available for all kinds of students! This is FREE money that you do not have to pay back. Check out the MMSD Highlighted Scholarships webpage as a place to start. Your school counselors also have a list of scholarships unique to your school. Your college of choice will also have a website devoted to scholarships - in many cases you may have to fill out the FAFSA to be considered for these. Below are a few places to start looking for free money for your education. 

Disclaimer - Do not pay money to apply for a scholarship. See your school counselor if you have questions about applying for the right scholarship for you. 


Loans are money that you DO have to pay back with INTEREST! Be sure you completely understand the terms and conditions of what you are signing before accepting loans. Your college's financial aid office can help you understand more about taking out loans. Filling out the FAFSA will determine if you are eligible for any loans. 


A grant is money given to you typically based on financial need, usually by the government, that you don’t have to pay back. Fill out the FAFSA to find out if you’re eligible for any grants.


While in college, you may consider getting a job on campus. Federal Work-Study (FWS) provides the opportunity to possibly get a part-time job easier for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. So, fill out the FAFSA to find out if you’re eligible for Work Study.

Reading Your Award Letter

After completing the FAFSA the college/s applied to will send the student an award letter that details what type of aid and how much financial aid a student is eligible for at that institution. Students can accept all the aid offered or can accept only what they need in order to pay for school. Your Financial Aid Award Explained is a good resource to understand your award letter. Your school counselor can also help explain what is on your award letter. Use the Compare Your Aid Awards tool to get a side-by-side comparison of your aid awards. Read about how to compare your aid awards and analyze your results.