Understanding Financial Aid

Why sugarcoat it? College is expensive and financial aid can be confusing. But rather than thinking of it as an expense, it may more be more useful to think about it as an investment in your future. 

But investments still need funding.

And while PSU is Oregon’s most affordable public university, 60% of PSU students receive some kind of financial aid during their undergrad.

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about financial aid because PSU’s scholarship applications and FAFSA have just opened for the 2019-20 academic year.

So what is financial aid? To put it simply, financial aid is any money not provided by you or your family that helps you pay for college. This money can cover anything from tuition and student fees to housing, food, books and transportation. If you need it to succeed in school, financial aid can cover it.

There are multiple ways to receive financial aid ranging from university scholarships to federal loans, but it all starts with filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is your key to making college more affordable. Check out our special blog post dedicated to deciphering the FAFSA for all the details.

Let’s take a closer look at the financial aid offered at Portland State, and what they mean for you.


Scholarships

PSU offers nearly 450 scholarships every year to students from all backgrounds! These scholarships range from awards based on academics to athletics to activism, and they can be used to pay tuition, student fees, housing and much more. Scholarships are not loans, and thus never need to be paid back to the university. It’s essentially free money. You heard that right. Free. Money.

PSU’s General Scholarship Application is due by February 1, so check out our detailed list of all university scholarships. Every scholarship is different, and some require letters of recommendation, writing samples and other supplemental materials, so start the application process early to ensure you will get yours in on time.

There are also a lot of national scholarships not specific to Portland State. For more information on these scholarships, visit the PSU scholarships home page.

Federal Grants

Many universities (PSU included) receive grants from the Federal Government that they can use to help students pay for college. These grants are split up into two categories: need-based and merit-based. Like scholarships, federal grants do not require to be repaid. More. Free. Money.

The most common federal grant is the Pell Grant. Pell Grants are need-based financial awards that are distributed to students based on the information provided in their FAFSA. To be considered for federal grants, you only need to fill out your FAFSA. When your FAFSA information is processed, you will be notified if you are eligible for federal grants. Learn more about federal grants and see the list of awards available.  

Student Loans

Unlike federal grants or scholarships, student loans (from either the federal government or private companies) are expected to be repaid. The amount of student loans you are eligible to receive is based, like all things financial, on the information you provide in your FAFSA.

It is important to only take out loans for what you think you will need, and no more. If you have questions about applying for or accepting student loans, feel free to reach out to the Financial Wellness Center and learn more about their services in our Resource Breakdown. Prospective students and their families are welcome.

You do not pay back student loans while you are a student. Instead, you begin paying for them roughly about six months after the final term you are in school.


Finding out how you are going to pay for college can be a complicated process, but there is a network of support at PSU. Through the Office of Financial Aid and Financial Wellness Center, there are always professionals excited to help you navigate the cost of college.

So feel free to drop by and introduce yourself or shoot us an email. No question is too small, and we want you to succeed.

Browse the PSU Scholarship Database!

Demystifying the FAFSA

Figuring out how you’ll pay for college can be overwhelming. Turns out, there’s a lot of money available for your higher education. The best place to start on your financial aid journey is with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). It’s best to go straight to the source when you want the facts, so we’ve compiled a few resources from the experts to help you learn more about your financial aid options and get some answers about the FAFSA.

Get an Overview of the FAFSA

The FAFSA Process

Completing the FAFSA is the first step in accessing the more than $150 billion available in federal student aid. To help you with your FAFSA, they have created a handy guide that walks you through each part in the process.

Get More Answers from Federal Student Aid (An Office of the US Department of Education)

To apply for federal student aid, you need to complete the FAFSA. If you’d like more information first, Federal Student Aid can help. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and quick, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school. In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.

Follow Federal Student Aid on Twitter and Facebook to get important updates and answers to frequently asked questions.

Fill out the FAFSA

8 Things to Do to Prepare for a College Fair

Who doesn’t love a fair? I sure do, but I know I’m biased. A college fair is a useful start for considering the next step for your future, but truth be told, a college fair can be overwhelming. There are ways, however, you can prepare for these informative events. These steps will help you get the low-down on colleges that pique your interest and help you make meaningful connections with admissions counselors.

Here are eight things you can do to get the most out of your time at a college fair:

1. Do Your Research

Think about what is most important to you in a college or university beforehand and talk with your family about what qualities would make the best fit. Want to live in the city? Are you interested in an all-star soccer team? Do you have concerns about tuition costs? It may be helpful to make a list and prepare questions you want answered to save time.

2. Get Organized and Prepare Contact Information

Make sure to bring a binder or folder to keep all of your information organized. Our job as admissions counselors is to help guide you through the school selection and application process, so you won’t want to lose the contact information of a school or admissions counselor you really liked. Also, you can save yourself the time and pain of handwriting your contact information on interest cards by preparing a sticky label with your name, contact information, date of birth, and year of graduation. This way we can keep in touch and send you the correct information for application deadlines, upcoming events and important updates specific to you.

3. Keep an Open Mind

Talk to schools you do not know much about and keep an open mind. You may find some schools that you never considered as a choice. There are so many options out there!  I would never have ended up at my Alma mater if I hadn’t been open to changing my original plan.

4. Arrive Early

Come early, check out the scene, and then decide who you are going to talk to. This will give you ample time to assess the scene and get more one-on-one time with counselors, allowing you to meet more people and get more questions answered!

5. Introduce Yourself and Exchange Information

Never be afraid to walk up and introduce yourself—and using firm handshake is always a nice touch! One of the best parts of my job is meeting new people, so let us get to know you. We expect students to ask questions and will need help getting through this process, and it’s our job to help! If you find a college counselor you really like, ask for their business card and give them your information. This shows that you are personable and making an effort to find the best choice for your future college career. Plus, creating a relationship with your admissions counselor early will mean that you’re better prepared and ahead of the game.

6. Ask Questions to Get the Answers You are Looking For

Don’t let us do all the talking. Take the time to think about questions that prompt meaningful information you couldn’t get from a website or brochure. Try asking questions that do not involve a yes or no answer. Also, remember that this is your college experience, so don’t hide behind your parents.

7. Follow-up

Send thank you cards or e-mails with follow up questions. I love hearing from students I meet at college fairs! Putting in that little bit of effort makes you stand out from the crowd. Admissions counselors meet a lot of students, so it makes us more willing to advocate for students we remember well.

8. Take Time to Reflect

Dedicate time after the event to organize your thoughts and contact information. There is a lot of information exchange at college fairs, making it easy to get lost in the shuffle. You can keep track of all this information by making a spreadsheet and ranking your schools by your interest level. This will help you know where to focus your next steps.

PSU Admissions representatives visit high schools, community colleges and participate in college fairs regionally, nationally, and internationally throughout the year.

Select your region and see when a PSU representative will be near you!

Built Around You: PSU’s Rolling Admissions Deadline

Getting sick, landing a new job, moving across the country or even across the street — not everything sticks to a tight schedule.

So why should your college admissions application?

We understand that sometimes life happens, and to accommodate we have a rolling deadline for admission here at PSU. That means that though we have a few firm deadlines — scholarship availability, on-campus housing, and eligibility for WUE, Four Years Free and Transfers Finish Free — applications for admissions are accepted nearly year-round.

Though we have a rolling admissions deadline it’s important to remember that the earlier you apply the more likely you are to get into certain courses and receive PSU-specific scholarships (deadlines for which are always in the fall term).

So, what are the perks of a rolling admissions deadline?

  • You hear back fast. We know how stressful it can be to wait. Our submission window means that before the priority deadlines (Dec. 1 for Freshman and Feb. 1 For Transfers) you’ll hear from us in about two weeks! Even past those deadlines you can expect a response in less than a month. 
  • Always accessible. Our rolling application deadline means that you can apply early or late in the admissions process. Want to apply a year in advance of your start term? Perfect. What about just a few months before? Works for us. All we care about is you applying and getting one step closer to that dream career.
  • Immediate action. A rolling application process means that your applications is looked at as soon as it is received by our admissions team. This means a faster response and an almost immediate notification if your application is missing any components. We want you to have the most possible time to get everything together before any financial aid deadlines.

At PSU, supporting our students and prospective students is the number one priority, and our rolling admissions deadline ensures that applicants have ample time to apply and get into college. You want to make a difference, and our job is to help make that happen.

*Did you know that students interested in transferring to PSU don’t have to finish up their summer term before applying? You can apply while taking classes at another institution and submit transcripts later! Just another way PSU makes applying easy.

Review our admissions requirements and priority deadlines (used for determining financial aid awards) and submit your application today. Or tomorrow. Whenever works for you. But you know what they say, there’s no time like the present.

Being the Most Prepared: Earning College Credit in High School

The Scouts have a motto: Be prepared.

They might not have been thinking about college when they coined that phrase, but we believe it still applies.

There are lots of ways to prepare for college. One that you may be doing already is earning college credit in high school. Whether it’s through AP and IB exams or taking classes at a local community college, taking college-prep courses is a great way to get a jump start on your degree.

Plus, coming in with college credits means you can take more electives and graduate sooner, which means more money saved.

PSU offers multiple different ways to earn college credit during high school:

SAT and ACT scores

While not directly earning college credit, SAT and ACT scores can help certain students’ application in other ways.

  • For international students (for whom ACT and SAT are NOT required), these scores can help them meet the English Language Proficiency Requirement required for class placement.
  • These scores can also help  meet admission requirements in the case of a GPA below our minimum requirement (3.0).

Advanced Placement (AP) Exams

If you have taken AP courses in high school you may be able to earn college credit you can use toward your degree at PSU. If on your AP exam for a given class your score is high enough, you may be eligible for college credit.

AP courses are also a great way to get a preview of the kind of academic rigor and content that you may encounter in your college classes.

To request an official copy of your AP transcripts, visit the College Board website.

International Baccalaureate (IB) Exams

Like AP courses, IB classes are a way that you can both gain collegiate-level academic experience and receive college credit by doing well on IB exams.

Students enrolling at Portland State who earn their IB diploma with a score of 30 or above will receive a total of 45 college credits (!) and sophomore class standing. Review this chart to see how your specific exam scores will transfer to PSU credit.

To request an official copy of your IB transcripts, visit the International Baccalaureate website.

College Level Exam Program (CLEP)

CLEP subject exams, like the more general AP and IB exams, can help you enter your freshman year with college credit, the results of which can be seen in this chart.

If you are interested in taking CLEP exams, it is recommended that you sign up for them one month in advance with Testing Services (part of Student Health and Counseling) or with another recognized CLEP testing center.

To request an official copy of your CLEP transcripts, visit the College Board website.


Earning college credit during high school is an investment in your future. Coming in with college credit means that you are more likely to graduate on time and that means saving money! It also allows you to jump into your major and start learning about the things you are passionate about.

Remember, if you want your college-prep courses to count you must send the appropriate transcripts to the Office of Admissions:

Office of Admissions
Portland State University
PO Box 751
Portland, OR 97207-0751

Learn more about other ways to earn credit at PSU!

The Easiest Way to Save Money: Graduate On Time

We know there’s more than one way to pursue college.

For some, the route leads them right from high school into a four year school. There are also those who enroll in community college with the goal of transferring to finish their bachelor’s degree.

Each path has their pros and cons, but they all share a common goal: getting a bachelor’s degree as fast as possible.

Studies from The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center have shown that students who start at a four-year college as a freshman are more likely to graduate on time.

Here’s what’s so great about graduating in four years:

1.  You also will save money. That same study showed that students who stay in school for more than four years can end up paying up to 40% more. Yikes! Surely transferring from a community college is more economical? Well, it is and it isn’t. Let me explain. Although Oregon Promise, and other state-sponsored programs like it, can help ease the cost of the first two years of your bachelor’s degree at a community college, transfer students tend to fall behind when coming to a four-year university. Sometimes credits don’t transfer over perfectly, or maybe it’s just problems with adjusting to a new school, but it all means taking more time to graduate, and that can cost a lot.

Plus, PSU now offers programs to help you graduate in four years if you enroll as a freshman.

  • Four-Year Degree Guarantee means that, if you meet the eligibility requirements, you will graduate in four years or we will pay for any extra courses you have to take.
  • You could even go to PSU for free. You heard that right. If you are an Oregon resident and you meet the eligibility requirements PSU will pay for your tuition and fees for four years.
  • PSU offers scholarships, work study and financial aid to those who qualify, all of which can help to ease the cost of college.
  • PSU’s Diversity and Multicultural Student Services offer amazing retention programs for students in their first year at PSU to help in the transition from high school to college and they provide scholarships!

    2.  You get to start your career sooner, and start making an impact. Evelynn Moz, a recent PSU graduate, was able to work while attending PSU, knowing that she would still graduate on time. Now she’s ready to take on the world as the International Merchandising Coordinator at Columbia Sportswear.

3.  Getting started at a four years college means you’ll be able to develop relationships early on with our expert faculty and staff. You’ll get to take advantage of our incredible University Studies program which helps you engage in the community and get real-world experience for the start. If you’re interested in joining the Honors College, then doing so as early as possible is the best option. You’ll get the most out of it and have a lot more to show for it when you graduate.

But what about the cost?

Choosing a college is a big choice, we get it, and regardless of where you go, it’s going to be expensive. At PSU though, what you are paying for is an investment, something that will allow you to thrive after you graduate. 

Learn about ways PSU can help you graduate in just four years!

Six Ways to Spend Time Between Classes on Campus

Lab just got out and you have a few hours before your next class. You sit for a minute, check Instagram, think about going home— but no, you think there has to be something fun to do on campus. Well, wonder no longer!

Six Ways to Spend Time Between Classes on Campus


1. The Viking Game Room

Need to kill some time? A place to unwind? How about a game of pool or bowling? (Yes, we have a bowling alley, and yes, it’s awesome.)

Located in the basement of the Smith Memorial Student Union, the Viking Game Room is open everyday of the week and offers a great place for students to relax and have fun.

 

2. Campus Rec

Wanna work up a sweat? Campus Rec has you covered with everything from a gym full of modern workout equipment to multiple climbing walls and even a full-size swimming pool.

Access to Campus Rec is included in your student fees and the multi-story facility is located conviently in the heart of campus.

Feeling competitive? Try PSU’s many rec clubs or intramural sports! With activities ranging from rugby to dodgeball to tango dancing there is sure to be something for everyone.

3. 5th Avenue Cinema

Ok, so maybe you’re still sore from going to Campus Rec the day before and want to take it easy. No problem. Did you know that right on PSU’s campus there is a student-run movie theater that’s free for students?

The 5th Avenue Cinema is Oregon’s only student-run cinema and presents international and domestic cinema year-round. If you weren’t sold already, just know that there is FREE POPCORN at every showing.

Check the screening schedule and other special events.

4. Portland Farmer’s Market

On campus on a saturday? Want to try some of the best food you’ve ever had? Well, you’re in luck because the Portland Farmer’s Market sets up shop right on PSU’s Park Blocks. Get ready to taste some of the most delicious produce you’ll ever eat.

Over 140 vendors come every saturday to sell their wares and every market includes chef demonstrations, kids’ cooking classes, live music and a lineup of food education events. It is not to be missed.

Plus, there’s plenty of free samples, if that’s what you’re into. (And let’s be real, who isn’t.)

5. Live at Lunch Concert Series

Portland is a town that revels in its unique music scene, so it would be remiss if PSU didn’t invite some of that amazing music to perform on campus. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 12-1pm, Live at Lunch presents live music on the PSU Park Blocks (inside SMSU if it’s raining).

With a new artist and musical style at every performance, Live at Lunch brings amazing free concerts to campus that everyone can enjoy.

Check out the lineup for this Spring on the PSU Professional Sound Facebook page.

6. Snag a Quick Bite

20+ food carts, local restaurants and more variety than you can shake a stick at, the truly unique food on campus represent the vibrancy that is Portland’s culinary culture.

Whether it’s Bowery Bagels in the Student Union, Coco Donuts at the Karl Miller Center or pad thai at the food carts across from the Engineering Building, campus has anything you could want to scratch that edible itch.


Now you have no excuse to be bored on campus!

5 Reasons You Should get an On-Campus Job

With classes, homework and extracurriculars, it might seem like college is too busy to have a part-time job. However, most jobs on campus are built to work alongside your school schedule, and can be an amazing opportunity to build your resume, gain professional references, and of course, make a little extra money for coffee, donuts and pizza. You know, essentials.

Here’s our top five reasons you should consider getting an on-campus job.


1. A school-friendly schedule

Campus employers understand that you are a student first and an employee second. This means that they are flexible, making sure that you aren’t working during classes or on especially busy weeks like midterms or finals.

2. Opportunity for relevant experience

There are lots of opportunities for students to work on-campus in organizations that reflect their interests. Criminal Justice major? Campus Public Safety is hiring. Health Studies? The Rec Center is almost entirely staffed by students. Qualified students can even become tutors, helping their fellow students in disciplines ranging from math to music.

3. Build a competitive resume

Having a part-time job during your undergrad is a great way to boost your resume and make your job search easier after graduation, especially if you worked with a department that shared your interests.

4. Gain professional references

Both your co-workers and supervisors can be great references for internships and careers after graduation. On-campus employers want to see you succeed, and are happy to help you realize your passions in any way they can.

5. Make good money

And, of course, having a part-time job means making extra money which you can put towards school…or, alternatively, more fun things. A relaxing trip to the coast perhaps? Maybe seats at Blazers game?


If you’re ready to see what part-time (and it will always be part-time, students are limited to 20 hours per week for on-campus jobs) opportunities are available on campus, visit Advising and Career Services, where a team of trained experts can help you land that perfect position!

Remember that an on-campus job is not the same as a Work Study Award. For more information on Work Study, visit the Office of Financial Aid.


A List of College Admissions Terms You Need to Know

At times, it can seem like colleges are speaking a foreign language.

Freshman, Honors, Transfer, Liberal Arts, Matriculate — Hold on a second, let’s back up.

We know that there is a lot of language that you may be unfamiliar with in the admissions process. And while it’s probably better than speaking in emojis, we understand that we may need to elaborate on a few of the terms we use.

Allow us to teach you how to speak college and understand the meaning of these important terms.


Undergraduate (Scrabble score: 16).

Any student at PSU who is in the process of earning their bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s (Scrabble score: 16).

The degree awarded to students after completing their undergraduate coursework. With PSU’s Four-Year Degree Guarantee, you can get your Bachelor’s Degree as quick as possible.

Liberal Arts (Scrabble score: 13).

A general term for academic subjects such as literature, philosophy, mathematics, and social and physical sciences.

Freshman (Scrabble score: 16).

A first-year student at a university. Freshman at PSU often live in on-campus housing, participate in Orientation and take Freshman Inquiry courses.

Transfer (Scrabble score: 11)

Any student who is taking undergraduate courses at PSU after participating in courses at another college or university after they have graduated from High School.  Note, we understand some High School students can take college classes while still in High School. Any current High School student applying for admission to PSU will be considered a “Freshman Applicant” regardless of how many college classes they will have taken prior to graduating from High School. That student may not be considered a Freshman once they matriculate (see below for definition) based on the number of college credits they transfer in.

Honors College (Scrabble score: 19).

An academically-intense course of study at PSU focused around community. Honors College applications are filled out separately and have different requirements.

Lower Division (Scrabble score: 20).

Classes offered at the freshman or sophomore level. Generally, lower-division classes will be in the 100-200 range and are often classes that prepare you for your intended major. All community college courses are considered lower division.

Upper Division (Scrabble score: 21).

Classes offered at the junior or senior level. Generally, upper-division classes will be in the 300-400 range and are often classes that delve specifically into specific topics relating to certain major programs.

Quarter (Scrabble score: 16).

PSU divides the school year up into quarters (sometimes called “terms”), rather than semesters. Each quarter you will take new classes. Most freshman start in the fall quarter and graduation takes place at the end of the spring quarter.

Fall Quarter: September – December
Winter Quarter: January – March
Spring Quarter: March – June
Summer Quarter (optional): June – September

Registrar (Scrabble score: 10).

The registrar’s office at PSU keeps track of all student records. The registrar is also where you can change your major, order official transcripts and register for classes.

Matriculate (Scrabble score: 15).

You’re in! To matriculate means to be fully admitted and enrolled at PSU!


Whew! That’s a lot, but now you should be armed with all the knowledge you need to attack the application process. And of course, if you see something you can’t quite decipher, you can always contact us at the Office of Admissions and we can help you out.


You’re In! Come Celebrate at an Admitted Student Reception

The college admissions process is a thrilling time. You are charting a course for the rest of your life and discovering how you want to make an impact on the world. But it’s also hard work, and after all your effort we think you deserve a break.  

So come celebrate getting into PSU at an Admitted Student Reception! You, your fellow new Vikings, and their families can kick back and relax as we toast you, the next generation of innovators and difference makers.

Receptions are happening all over the country and sign up is FREE so register today!

Apart from being a ton of fun—think photo booths, tons of PSU swag, good food, music and new friends—Admitted Student Receptions are the perfect place to get answers to your burning questions about everything from housing to financial aid. Admissions staff will be on hand at every event and are excited to meet you!

“When I came to the Admitted Student reception I felt instantly comfortable,” says Rohi Gheewala, a third year biochemistry student from Hillsboro, Oregon. “It helped me learn about campus more, and I loved seeing how open-minded and diverse everything was.”

Let us welcome you into the PSU community and congratulate you on all your hard work at an Admitted Student Reception!

Sign Up Today