Financial Fitness > Pay for School > Understanding Financial Aid

Understanding Your Federal Financial Aid Package

Sometimes scholarships, savings and part-time work just aren't enough to pay for school. When you need to borrow money for school, Federal Financial Aid is the first place to look.

What is financial aid?

Financial Aid is any grant, scholarship, loan or paid employment offered to help a student meet his/her college expenses.

How do I apply for federal student aid?

Fill out an application! Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at In addition to federal student loans, the FAFSA also determines your eligibility for other federal student aid including grants and work-study. Learn more about applying for aid.

When should I complete the FAFSA?

Complete and submit the FAFSA on or after October 1st of the year before you expect to start college.

How is financial aid determined?

Your financial aid award package is based on a number of factors: your estimated cost of attendance, your FAFSA application information, individual financial aid program requirements and the availability of funds. 

DePaul's Office of Financial Aid has great guides on understanding your financial aid package. Check out their guides for undergraduate, graduate, SCPS students and Law students.

If you need help figuring out financial aid in relation to your big financial picture, a Financial Fitness advisor can help.

Undergraduate and Graduate Loan Options

As noted on the Federal Financial Aid website, there are limits on the maximum amount in subsidized and unsubsidized loans that you are eligible to receive each academic year (annual loan limit) and over your academic career (total loan limits). These limits depend on:
  • what year you are in school, and
  • whether you are a dependent or independent student.

Check out this chart for the maximum annual and total loan limits for subsidized and unsubsidized loans.​​​​​​​