Paying for College 101

A question in any student's college search is "how will I pay for it?" At GWU, a majority of students receive a generous financial aid package comprised of institutional scholarships and financial aid, mixed with federal aid and scholarships from outside sources. Financial aid plays a big role in your college search, but you shouldn't let it keep you from pursuing the school of your dreams. Keep reading as we explore all the different types of scholarships, loans, and aid that you can receive to finance your education.


Net Price Calculator

A great first place to start is by utilizing the Freshman Net Price Calculator. You can estimate your financial eligibility and receive an estimate about what your financial aid package could look like, based on the information you provide. The calculator is currently using costs for the 2019-2020 year.

Keep in mind that your financial aid package includes scholarships, grants, and loans from a variety of sources, including Federal and State Government and Gardner-Webb University.   


GWU offers a variety of scholarships and grants to incoming students. Ranging from $5,000 to $18,000, these scholarships are offered based on your test scores and GPA. Additionally, there are similar scholarships available specifically for transfer students as well.

If you’re a high school senior, you may be eligible to participate in the Ignite Excellence Scholarship Competition, held each year in early February. There are multiple levels of this scholarship that participants may be awarded:

-       Ignite Excellence Comprehensive Scholarship (full tuition, room, and board)

-       Ignite Excellence Full Tuition Scholarship (full tuition)

-       Honors Scholarship

-       Ignite Excellence Participation Award

Don’t let the word “competition” scare you away – this scholarship opportunity is designed to be as non-intimidating as possible. Each part of the interview provides you and the committee with a unique opportunity to get to know you and learn why you want to make GWU your home.



The “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” is one of the most important sources of financial aid! While this application can seem pretty complicated to complete, it’s important that you get it done before October 1 to ensure that you get the most aid possible.

The FAFSA will tell you what types of federal aid you may qualify for. Remember, this is all based on the data that you put on your application, so make sure that it is as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

But what kinds of aid will you qualify for? Here is a breakdown of the different types:

-       Unsubsidized loans: there is no requirement to demonstrate financial need for these loans. Your school determines the amount you can borrow based on the cost of attendance and other financial aid you receive. If you choose to not pay the interest on these loans while you’re in school, your interest will accumulate and be added to the amount of your loan when you begin making payments.

-       Subsidized loans: the amount you can borrow is determined by your school, and the amount may not exceed your financial need. The US Department of Education pays the interest on this loan while you’re in school at least half time, for the first six months after graduation, or during a period of deferment.

-       Direct PLUS loans: available to parents of dependent undergraduate students, this loan can help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid.

-       Federal Pell grants: usually awarded to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need, these grants do not need to be repaid.

Outside Aid

There are lots of other opportunities for scholarships and aid outside of the FAFSA and your college. If you attend a church at home, check with leadership to see if they offer a college scholarship. Look at websites like and They list hundreds of outside scholarships, including information about application deadlines and materials. Sometimes these scholarships only take a few minutes to apply to – so it’s worth your time for a chance to win!

Don’t forget resources like the College Board, either. They offer a “Scholarship Search” tool which allows you to enter your personal information and search for scholarships that are the best match to your profile. They have also launched a program called the “College Board Opportunity Scholarships,” that awards $5 million in scholarships annually.