Students on campusI’m not going to sugar coat this: planning how you will pay for college takes some work. If you’re willing to put in the time now, you can rest assured knowing you explored all your options and took advantage of every possible cent available to help cover your college costs.

As a financial aid counselor, I get a lot of questions about how to get the most out of financial aid, and over the years I’ve come up the following: 

  1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible - The FAFSA opens October 1 and must be completed each year for you to be considered for financial aid. Both you and your parent need to create a FSA ID. Your FSA ID serves as your electronic signature and your FAFSA is not complete without it – and you can’t share an ID with your parent! It’s a good idea to use the built-in IRS Data Retrieval tool to automatically pull your tax information into the FAFSA because it’s a big timesaver. The FAFSA asks for tax information from two years ago (i.e. 2016 for the 2018-19 FAFSA), so no need to wait to apply. CU Boulder provides financial aid in the form of grants, loans, work-study and scholarships based on your financial situation. Since we have limited resources, we provide money to those who need it the most (as determined by the FAFSA). We also provide funds first-come, first-served – so don’t procrastinate!
  2. Apply for scholarships - Continue to apply for scholarships! This is the BEST way to pay for college, so put in the most effort here. Your CU Boulder admissions application already considers you for automatic consideration scholarships, but don’t stop there. Scholarship Services has outlined lots of ways to find and apply for CU Boulder Scholarships and private scholarships. Check with your high school counselor about local scholarships too. Not all scholarships are based on merit or financial need. We see scholarships available based on talents (such as playing a musical instrument), leadership traits or even majors of study. When we hear about these (and other) scholarships, we post them at We also highlight some of our larger scholarships on Twitter, so follow us at @futurebuffs and @CUBoulder.
  3. Stay in touch with the Office of Financial Aid - We send you important “To-Do” items via email. Keep your eyes open for these communications. This is the best way to stay on top of the next steps for receiving aid, grants, scholarships and work-study.

Of course, there are more ways to pay for college. For more information, the Financial Aid website is a good place to start.

Completing the FAFSA and applying for scholarships won’t cost you anything so it doesn’t hurt to apply and see what you can get. There’s so much to enjoy about college, so let the Office of Financial Aid help you figure out how to cover the bill!

Mari FoisyMari Foisy
Coordinator & Counselor
Office of Financial Aid