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Financial Aid 101:
Types of Aid Available and Finding Additional Scholarships

University of Denver Financial Aid

A quick note about this email: it’s a long one. We have a lot of information to share with you. They won’t all be this long, though. We promise.

In general, the types of financial aid available to students—regardless of where they attend college—fall into three categories: grants and scholarships, loans, and student work opportunities. This email discusses the opportunities your student may have to finance a University of Denver education. 

Grants and Scholarships:
All types of grants and scholarships are considered “gift aid,” which means they do not have to be repaid. Gift aid comes from four sources:

  • the University of Denver
  • the State of Colorado
  • the U.S. Department of Education
  • private organizations

Your student's final award letter will likely contain a combination of aid from the first three sources. Let’s look at them in more detail.

Aid from the University of Denver:
There are two kinds of institutional aid available at DU: merit-based and need-based. All students are considered for merit-based scholarships when they apply for admission. To be considered for need-based grants and scholarships, a FAFSA and CSS PROFILE must be submitted. Here’s a quick overview of the most common types of aid awarded to new DU students:

  • Merit scholarships are the most commonly awarded scholarship. Amounts range from $10,000 to $20,000, and students are notified in their admission letter if they received a merit scholarship (no separate application is required). Eligibility is determined by the student’s academic profile.
  • Students who were awarded a merit scholarship and live on campus will also receive the Residence Hall Grant. This $3,000 grant will pay directly toward the tuition bill, as long as the student continues to live on campus.
  • The DU Educational Grant is need-based, which means eligibility is determined by the information reported on the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE. Award amounts vary from student-to-student, and that amount may change each year if there are changes to the family’s financial situation.
  • Some students may be eligible for Talent Scholarships based on achievements in athletics, music, theater, art, etc. Eligibility and award amounts are determined by individual athletic or academic departments.
  • Once students have taken a few classes in their major, they may be eligible for Endowed Scholarships in their 2nd, 3rd or 4th year at DU. Generally, however, first-year students are not eligible for this type of aid.

Aid from the State of Colorado:
Colorado residents may be eligible for two need-based awards:

Aid from the U.S. Department of Education:
The two most common types of federal grants are the Pell Grant and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG). Both are need-based; a FAFSA must be submitted to be considered.

  • The amount a student may receive through a Pell Grant will change annually. For the 2015-16 academic year, eligible students are awarded up to $5,775. That amount, however, depends on financial need and whether the student is enrolled full or part time.
  • Students with exceptional financial need may receive SEOG for between $100 and $4,000 annually. That amount depends on when the student applies, financial need, and available funding.

Private Scholarships:
Scholarship opportunities are available through various entities not affiliated with DU, and can come from a variety of sources, including community organizations and women’s, ethnic, or religious organizations. Generally, these opportunities are called “private scholarships.” You’ll find tips for finding these scholarships at the end of this email.

Student Loans:
As you might expect, all student loans must be repaid. These loans are available through either the U.S. Department of Education (which means a FAFSA must be submitted to be eligible), or a private lending institution such as a bank or credit union. Students who apply for aid will have at least one loan included in their financial aid package. Here's a brief overview:

  • Federal Direct loans have a 4.29% fixed interest rate, and first-year students are awarded up to $5,500. Some students will have both Subsidized and Unsubsidized Direct loans on their award letter. Subsidized loans are need-based, and the government pays the interest while the student is in school. Unsubsidized loans are available to students regardless of financial need. Up to $3,500 of the $5,500 can be subsidized.
  • The Federal Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (commonly known as “Parent PLUS” loans), are available to credit-worthy parents of dependent undergraduate students. It has a 6.84% fixed interest rate, and a parent can borrow up to the student’s full cost of attendance, less all other financial aid. DU does not automatically include this loan in financial aid packages; parents must apply for them separately.
  • Private education loans are available from a variety of lending institutions. While no FAFSA is required for these loans, eligibility varies among lenders, and usually a credit check and/or debt-to-income ratio is required. Many have variable interest rates.

Student Work Opportunities:
Some students will see work-study listed on their award letter. This is a need-based award that allows students to work on campus to earn money to help pay for college expenses. It’s not a grant (because students must work to earn it), and it’s not a loan (because it doesn't have to be repaid). Work-study funding is limited, so not all students who would otherwise be eligible will receive it. In their first year at DU, students with this award can earn up to $2,500.

Finding Additional Scholarships:
There are many different types of private scholarships available from a variety of sources. They just take a little legwork to receive them!

A good place for your student to start looking for this “free money” is through our scholarship search page. Throughout the year, numerous organizations send us information about the scholarships and grants they have available. Our search page is a directory of these opportunities, and includes contact information for each organization as well as a website you can visit for more information.

Additional Search Engines:
There are many other online scholarship databases out there. This is a short list. Remember, though, students should never pay money up front to receive a private scholarship!

Tips to help your student in the search:

  • Searching for private scholarships can be time intensive. Make it easier by having a system to find and apply for these opportunities!
  • Actively investigate as many scholarships as possible.
  • Be sure to read all application materials thoroughly so you don't miss an important step in their process.
  • Don't be discouraged by scholarships with small dollar amounts—every little bit helps!
  • Organizations of all types and sizes sponsor scholarships. Explore local entities you might not have considered, such as religious, community service, fraternal, military, union and professional organizations.

Up next week: When to Expect an Award Letter

Want to review past Financial Aid 101 emails? Check out the archives!

Contact Us:

Financial Aid • University Hall 255 • 2197 S. University Blvd • Denver, CO 80208

Ph: 303.871.4020 • Fax: 303.871.2341 • Email:

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