Financial Aid Awards Explained

These are the 4 different types of Financial Aid awards you can receive. While the amounts may vary, the same types of awards are given at both 4-year and 2-year colleges.

  1. Scholarships and Grants – These awards are the best. They’re free money that never needs to be paid back. When offered, always accept Grants and Scholarships. 
  2. Subsidized Loan – If you need to take out a loan to finance your education, these are the ones you should use. Their main advantage is that the money you borrow does not accrue any interest while you’re in college, including if you continue on to graduate school. 
  3. Unsubsidized Loan – These loans do accrue interest and should only be used if absolutely necessary. For example, on a $10,000 Unsubsidized Loan with a standard 6.8% interest rate, the amount of interest that accrues per day is $1.86. Meaning after 4 years of college, you’ll owe over $12,750.
  4. Work-Study – Unlike the other awards, the student has to work for this money. However, the jobs are often very easy, giving the student time to study while at work. There’s nothing like getting paid to do your homework. Colleges don’t always offer these awards in their initial letter, so if you don’t see it listed, you can reach out to the college’s financial aid office and often they will update their offer.

SAT? ACT? IDK: What’s up with testing?

For decades colleges and universities have relied heavily on two tests to help them make their admissions decisions. For just as long, educators have argued that these tests don’t accurately reflect a student’s ability to be successful in college. Placing so much weight on a single standardized test has led students to ignore the activities that ARE indicators of future success like enrolling in challenging classes, having a job, or engaging in experiential learning opportunities so that they can spend a significant amount of time preparing for a test. 

Due to the pandemic, colleges in 2020 were forced to remove their testing requirements. This prompted the testing companies to implement some long-desired changes. The essays, arbitrary vocabulary sections, and point deductions for incorrect answers have been removed in favor of more reading and evidenced based questions, and options for taking the test remotely. 

Colleges have taken it a step further. Currently, there are nearly 1600 colleges and universities that have announced that they will continue to make testing optional, and the entire University of California system (including UCLA and UC Berkeley) have said that they will never again consider either the SAT or ACT as part of the application process. 

What does this mean for current high school students who are planning on college? One of my former colleagues at UC Berkeley noted, “Colleges are really starting to value students who take initiative and make an impact. They want to find students who are: 

  • Taking the most challenging classes at their high schools, especially the APs (Advanced Placement). 
  • Engaging in some sort of meaningful work outside of the classroom. That can be clubs, volunteering, internships, sports, or jobs. 
  • Making a positive impact on a community they are a part of, including but not limited to their town, school, or even their own household.”

While standardized testing will likely never go away totally, it is no longer recommended to spend hundreds of hours or thousands of dollars on test prep. Your time would be much better utilized by working to improve your grades, and finding an area outside of school that you’re passionate about and can become more involved in. 

If the college you’re applying to does still require the SAT, I would strongly recommend using Khan Academy’s test prep program. It was created in collaboration with the organization that oversees the SAT, it is absolutely free, and most importantly after taking their diagnostic exam, it tailors its questions to the specific needs of the student studying.


Colleges that Guarantee Affordability

Hormel Inspired Pathways has guaranteed that every student in the Hormel community has the opportunity to attend a 2-year community college tuition-free.

It is no secret that the cost of four-year colleges has skyrocketed over the last decade. Many of the most selective private schools now have a cost-of-attendance over $70,000, more than double the average full-time salary within the United States. Because of this, many students and families have all but given up on the idea of attending one of these colleges, even if the student is academically qualified.                        

Fortunately, some of the very best colleges and universities in the country are aware of this issue and have made a commitment to make their college affordable for any student capable of gaining admission. These schools, known as “Full-Need Met” colleges, are now telling students, ‘If you can get in, we guarantee that we will make sure you can afford to attend.

Each year more of the top colleges join this group, and now nearly 100 colleges and universities across the nation make this promise. Grinnell, Carleton, Macalester, and all of the Ivy League universities are just a few that have joined this group, guaranteeing they will work with families to ensure their school is affordable. 

Importantly, unlike many public universities and community colleges that have different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students, Full-Need Met colleges don’t make this distinction. It doesn’t matter if you live down the street or across the country from your dream school, if it is on the list and you get accepted, you’ll receive the same great financial aid package. 
To see the complete list of Full-Need Met colleges, visit and click the Resources tab at the top of the page.