Financial Aid Basics

Planning for college expenses is easier when you’ve got an expert on your side. We’re here to help.

What is financial aid? 

Financial aid includes grants, scholarships, loans and work options. These funds come from a variety of sources including Hope College, federal and state government programs, and private organizations.

Your financial aid can be considered either gift aid or self-help aid:

  • Gift aid (such as scholarships and grants) does not need to be repaid
  • Self-help aid must be repaid (loans) or earned (work study)

For most financial aid programs you must: 

  • Be a United States citizen or eligible non-citizen enrolled in a degree or certificate program
  • Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress
  • Not be in default on a federal student loan
  • Not owe a refund on any federal financial aid grant
  • Be registered for selective service (if required)
  • Have a high school diploma or recognized equivalent
  • Have a valid Social Security number

Students typically apply for financial aid as a dependent student, submitting their parents’ income and asset information. However, if you meet one of the criteria established by federal regulations, you can file for aid as an independent student.

Sometimes extraordinary circumstances make it impossible for a student who does not meet the criteria for an independent student to obtain parental information. In such cases, if well documented, the Office of Financial Aid may authorize a dependency override. If such an override is granted the student then reports only his or her income and asset information on the aid application.

Examples of extraordinary circumstances include documented cases of child abuse, incarceration of the custodial parent or documented long-term estrangement from parents.

Parents who are unwilling to contribute to educational expenses or who do not claim their student on their federal tax return are not extraordinary circumstances; a dependency override will not be granted in these situations.


If you’re interested in receiving aid, you'll need to complete: 

The priority consideration date for aid applications is March 1 of each year. Be sure to list Hope College on your FAFSA. Our school code is 002273.

When you file the FAFSA you will need a FSA ID. Your FSA ID is used to electronically sign your financial aid application and documents. You may need separate FSA IDs for you and your parents. 

In cases of divorced parents, you should apply for aid using the income figures of the parent (and his or her spouse, if remarried) with whom you resided the most during the past 12 months. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, provide answers about the parent who offered you the most financial support during the last 12 months, or during the most recent year that you were supported by one of your parents.


Once you have filed the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that includes your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is what our office will use to determine your financial need at Hope.

To determine your financial need we also review your Cost of Attendance (COA). All schools create a COA based on several factors including tuition, housing, food, books, transportation and personal expenses. These factors will have a different cost at each school, therefore the COA is different at each school.

Your financial need is determined by taking your cost of attendance (COA) minus your expected family contribution (EFC). Understanding the cost of attendance, your expected family contribution and financial need will help you understand your award notification.


After you complete your applications, our office reviews your eligibility. You may be required to submit additional documentation to verify the data on your FAFSA. This verification process is required by the U.S. Department of Education. 

If you are selected to complete the federal verification process, you will be required to document federal income tax information. You can transfer your tax data directly into your original FAFSA or you can provide an IRS Tax Return Transcript.

Instructions for using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

If you are required to submit additional documents, our office will send you a written request with details. It is important that you submit any required documentation as soon as possible to avoid delays in receiving your award notice. 

If no additional documents are needed to complete your file, your award notice will be sent during the months of March and April (incoming students) or May and June (returning students). 

Filing your applications after March 1 can result in a delayed award notification.