Financial aid is a critical component to giving the majority of college students access to higher education. However, many students and parents have common questions about financial aid, and the process of securing funding through a variety of sources can be confusing at times.

Check out some of the most common financial aid questions–and answers–below.

Q: How do I accept my financial aid awards?

A: Grants and scholarships are automatically accepted, so students do not need to take any specific action to receive these financial aid awards. However, students must accept or reject their Direct Loans.

Q: In the context of financial aid in general, what is the difference between federal aid and state aid?

A: Federal financial aid is funded by the U.S. government. Examples include Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG). These grants are need-based. It should be noted that a grant does not have to be repaid, nor does a scholarship.

State aid refers to programs that are limited to state residents. These programs may provide need-based and non-need-based grants and scholarships – as well as loan programs - for residents within a particular state.

Q: What is FAFSA and why is it so important? And what are the important dates to remember regarding FAFSA?

A: The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Completing this application marks the first step in applying for financial aid.

A new FAFSA application opens on October 1 of each year, so it is important to complete the new year application as soon as it is available as some financial aid funding is limited and provided to students on a first-come, first-served basis according to FAFSA completion.

Q: What does financial aid cover?

A: Federal, state, and institutional financial aid can be used to cover the cost of your tuition and fees, as well as your room and board if you live on campus. Federal and state financial aid – as well as educational loans - can also be used to help pay your housing expenses if you live off campus. These types of financial aid can cover the cost of your rent or mortgage if you own your own residence. It should be noted that institutional-provided aid cannot be used toward non-campus housing costs.

Students can also use financial aid for other items necessary for earning a degree. These include books, supplies, lab equipment, and even computers.

Plus, federal financial aid can cover transportation to and from classes. For instance, if you use a bus or other public transportation to travel to and from campus, financial aid dollars can help pay for your tickets. If you own your own vehicle and use it to get to school, financial aid can help cover maintenance expenses and gas.

Keep in mind that financial aid does not cover club fees, such as those required for sorority or fraternity membership dues. If you have financial aid funds left over, you may use them for groceries, childcare for when you are attending classes and studying, clothing, and other personal necessities for you to succeed as a college student.

Q: What are the differences between subsidized and unsubsidized loans?

A: Subsidized direct loans are available to undergraduate students with financial need.

The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on a subsidized Direct Loan while the student is in school at least half-time and when the student is in deferment.

Unsubsidized direct loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students. There is no requirement to demonstrate financial need. It is important to note that a student must complete a FAFSA in order to apply for an unsubsidized Direct Loan. Plus, students are responsible for paying the interest on an unsubsidized Direct Loan during all periods.

Q: What are the differences between financial aid options available to undergraduate vs. graduate students?

A: While there are some differences in the types and amounts of financial aid available, it is still crucial that all students complete the FAFSA.

At the undergraduate level, most financial aid is need-based and is primarily based on the students’ and their parents’ income. However, at the graduate level, income plays a lesser role in what you may be eligible for.

Additionally, eligible graduate students may have the ability to fund their education through both Federal Unsubsidized Loans and Federal Graduate PLUS loans. A Graduate PLUS loan allows students to borrow up to the cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid received.

Q: What happens to my financial aid if I drop a class?

A: If a student did not attend any of their classes and drops all of them during drop/add, they will not be eligible to receive any financial aid for the dropped term. If the student has used a book voucher or has other fees on their account, they must make alternative payment arrangements for those balances.

Students must notify Student Financial Services when they drop classes so that their direct loan(s) will be restructured and ready for the student to use during their next attended semester.

Q: What happens to my financial aid if I withdraw from a class?

A: If the student withdraws from one course, but is still enrolled at least halftime, the student will be eligible to keep Federal Financial Aid that has already disbursed.

If the student’s Federal Financial Aid has not disbursed yet and the student is no longer considered to be attending at least half-time, the student is ineligible for that term’s Federal Financial Aid - including Direct Loan and Pell Grant disbursements.

Q: What happens to my financial aid if I take a term off?

A: Students are not eligible to receive financial aid for unattended terms. If the missed term is the first scheduled term for a student’s Direct Loan or Pell Grant, the student should contact Student Financial Services immediately. Current Department of Education policy requires that any future Direct Loan or Pell Grant disbursements scheduled for the pay period will be cancelled. Students must inform their university of the next semester the student plans to re-enroll for.

Q: Who can I contact at Saint Leo University with questions about financial aid?

A: If you have any financial aid questions, please call Student Financial Services toll-free at (800) 240-7658 to speak with a representative. Send questions via email to

Also, check out the Saint Leo financial aid homepage and watch helpful videos on a variety of financial aid topics here.