Financial aid 1-2-3: FAFSA, grants, and scholarships

Written by
Emily Stetson

October 7, 2020


Financial aid for college and training starts with the FAFSA - student image

October is the kickoff of the financial aid season, which means it’s time to do your FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid opens the doors to a world of financial aidincluding grants, scholarships, work study and even loansto help you pay for education and training. Every high school senior (and returning college student) should file one, even if you believe you may not qualify for aid. Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: FAFSA help, question-by-question.

Our live online VSAC Shows You How webinar, simulcast to Facebook, on Thursday, Oct. 15, from 6-7 p.m., is now available! View it here, and follow along as VSAC outreach counselor Carrie Harlow walks you through how to complete a FAFSA, question by question. Note: If you don’t have your FSA ID, take a few minutes to get it here.

Why complete your FAFSA? It’s the first step in determining how much federal aid you are eligible to receive. That’s important, because for many Vermonters, 2020 has been a financial fiasco. If you plan to get financial help from the college or trade school you want to attend, you need to file a FAFSA. Plus, the FAFSA unlocks all sorts of other financial aid resources, from state aid, institutional aid, need-based scholarships and more. Completing the online form takes about 45 minutes.

“The FAFSA is the key, literally the gateway, to all financial aid – federal Pell grants, the Vermont state grant, many scholarships, institutional aid, work-study programs and federal loans,” said Marilyn Cargill, vice president of financial aid services at VSAC. Get more info about the FAFSA at

Step 2: Apply for a Vermont state grant.

Once you complete the FAFSA, you’ll be prompted to apply for the state grant. Grants are free “gift” aid that you do not need to repay. The FAFSA + Vermont state grant = $$$ for your education (all in about 90 minutes. Not bad, right?). Learn more about how to apply for the Vermont state grant at Plus, mark your calendars for Nov 18, at 6 pm, and join the next VSAC Shows You How webinar on applying for the Vermont Grant. Register here.

Step 3: Apply for scholarships.

VSAC manages more than 120 scholarships just for Vermonters, awarding over $5 million in free “gift” aid every year. To be considered, you must apply. Check out the broad range of VSAC scholarship opportunities in our online booklet.

Have questions or need more help? VSAC has a full line of essential planning resources to assist students and families as well as adults returning to learning. See our updated virtual offerings, including workshops, financial aid 1:1 support sessions, Zoom Rooms, and more. Also check out the VSAC calendar for online events that fit your schedule. 

At VSAC, serving our community is at the heart of all we do. During this ever-changing time, we remain available and committed to help you navigate all your career and education needs. Reach out to us and ask for assistance. You can call us with questions on financial aid and other help at 833-802-8722 (VSAC), 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and reach us via email at For updates of how we can help during the COVID-19 crisis, click here.