BLOG: Admissions Director's Blog Class of 2026

5 Most Asked Questions About Financial Aid

It’s officially spring! With winter behind us (at least according to the calendar), you are officially one season closer to Firing Up at CMU this fall. There are still steps to take between now and then, including going over your financial aid offer.

Your financial aid offer is now available in your financial aid portal. You can also access your financial aid portal through your admitted student portal

As you look it over, there may be some terms you’re unfamiliar with. To help you with these, I thought I would use this week’s blog to define some terms and help you understand your options. 

We understand everyone’s circumstances are different. Our Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid is staffed by experts who can help you with your individual questions. You can find general information on the OSFA website or reach out for more information at 989-774-3674 or

Let’s start at the beginning:

What is financial aid?

When we talk about financial aid, we mean money you get to help pay for your college education that doesn’t come out of your own pocket. While money from relatives or other personal supporters is technically financial aid, what we usually mean falls into two categories: gift aid and loans.

Do you have to pay financial aid back?

You do not have to pay back gift aid. 

There are three types:

  • Scholarships are awarded for your achievements (good grades and/or test scores, talent, athletics), involvement (in your community, with underserved groups, etc.), special interests or other factors. Our Maroon and Gold Merit Awards scholarship is one of several we offer.
  • Grants are based on financial need and are available from the federal government, CMU and other sources. You may have heard of the Federal Pell Grant, and we also have the CMU Grant.  Both are based on demonstrated financial need.
  • The Federal Work-Study Program gives you the opportunity to contribute toward your educational expenses with an on-campus job. You are eligible if you have been awarded work-study on your financial aid offer. 

You do have to pay back federal loans. 

You borrow this money to help pay for your education and pay it back with interest. But, borrowing can help you with your upfront costs. There are three types:

  • Subsidized loans are offered to students who demonstrate financial need. The federal government pays the interest on your loan while you are enrolled in classes at least half time. Once you graduate or drop below half time, you will start paying back the loan.
  • Unsubsidized loans are offered to all students who qualify for student loans. The federal government does not pay the interest on your loan while you are enrolled in classes at least half time. While you’re in school, you can pay the interest as it comes due or have it added quarterly to your loan. When you graduate or drop below half time, you’ll start paying back the loan plus any interest that has been added in.
  • Federal Direct PLUS loans are for parents of undergraduate students. These are non-need based and are for parents with good credit histories who want to borrow for their dependent students. Parents have options to repay while you’re in school or after you graduate.

How do you demonstrate financial need?

  • Demonstrated financial need is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, called the FAFSA. You file your FAFSA online. Even if you or your supporters don’t think you’ll qualify for aid, it’s always best to take the time to file your FAFSA. You’ll need one on file to be eligible for some of our competitive scholarships, and you may be eligible for more aid than you think.
  • You’ll fill out the FAFSA with information about your family’s income, tax information, citizenship, bank balances and more. A universal federal formula uses this information to determine what types and how much aid you qualify for.

When do you file the FAFSA?

  • The FAFSA form opens on Oct. 1 of your senior year in high school or the year prior to when you plan to start college. To get priority consideration for all federal, state and CMU funds, submit your FAFSA by the following Feb. 15 to ensure the results are processed, sent to, and received by the state of Michigan before March 1.
  • You must submit a new FAFSA every year you attend college. Since you are starting this fall, you should have already filed your FAFSA for the 2022-23 school year. Between Oct. 1, 2022, and Feb. 15, 2023, you’ll need to submit your renewal FAFSA for the 2023-24 school year.

How do I accept or reject loans on my financial aid offer?

The suggested loans listed on your offer are loans that you qualify for. You do not have to take any of these loans. You can accept or reject any one or all of them. 

  • To reject or reduce a subsidized or unsubsidized loan, go to your financial aid portal and scroll down to the overview. There will be a check box next to each loan to edit it or reject the loan. When you click the box, you’ll have the option to reduce the amount or reject the loan. If you decide later that you want to accept a loan you previously rejected, contact the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at 989-774-3674 and they may be able to add it back for you.
  • To accept a subsidized or unsubsidized loan you will go to the site to complete the loan process. First-time borrowers need to complete the Entrance Counseling and Sign a Master Promissory Note.

I hope this quick overview helps you understand your financial aid offer. Always remember, you can contact the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at 989-774-3674 or They also have a very good frequently asked questions webpage.

Keep getting ready for fall!

Blog: Admissions Director's Blog Class of 2026 posted | Last Modified: | Author: by Jennifer DeHaemers, Vice President, Student Recruitment and Retention | Categories: Admissions
The views and opinions expressed in these blog pages are strictly those of the page author.