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!

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?

Rolling Deadline

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).

The Perks

  • 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.

What You Need to Know About Transfers Finish Free

We are committed to helping you graduate on time and with as little debt as possible. That’s why we created our new Transfers Finish Free program, which covers standard tuition and fees for Oregon residents while you work to get your degree, saving you thousands of dollars and helping you land that perfect career as soon as possible.

Here’s what you need to know about this exciting new program.

Eligibility

To qualify for Transfers Finish Free, you must:

  • Be a current resident of Oregon
  • Admissible to PSU as a transfer for the fall term (have at least 30 or more transferable quarter credits – 20 semester credits – earned after high school graduation)
  • Have a 2.5 cumulative unweighted GPA
  • Be eligible to receive a federal Pell grant as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Enrolled full-time at PSU with at least 12 credits

Important Deadlines

These are the dates you must add to your calendars so they don’t pass you by!

July 1st:
Submit the FAFSA (PSU FAFSA school code: 003216)
Apply to PSU

August 1st:
Deadline to submit final transcripts demonstrating a 2.5 cumulative, unweighted GPA

Steps to Apply

  1. Submit the FAFSA by July 1
    PSU FAFSA school code: 003216
    Accept all state and federal grants awarded
  2. Apply online to PSU by July 1
    Submit all required admission materials including official transcripts from all colleges attended
  3. Submit final transcripts and outstanding financial aid documents by August 1

Keeping the Award is Easy

Retaining your Transfers Finish Free award is easy, simply:

  • Complete the FAFSA each year by February 1
  • Remain eligible for the federal Pell grant
  • Enroll full-time each term (12-15 credits per term)
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher

Students who take 12 or more credits per term are considered full time. This program covers base tuition and mandatory fees for the lesser of four academic years or the completion of graduation requirements.

Covered Costs

To qualify, you must apply for federal and state grants. The program covers remaining standard tuition and mandatory fees after financial aid is applied.

Transfers Finish Free money does not cover room and board, books and supplies, transportation or personal expenses. Students are encouraged to apply for other grants and scholarships and to explore other options for paying for other expenses related to attending Portland State University.

Notification Details

Students will be notified that they are enrolled in the Transfers Finish Free program in their Financial Aid Award notification. Students who are enrolled in the program, but whose other grants and scholarships cover their Standard Tuition and Mandatory Fees may receive Transfers Finish Free money from Portland State University if their grants and scholarships do not cover the full cost of standard tuition and mandatory fees.

If you have questions about your eligibility or your financial aid award, contact askfa@pdx.edu.


For more information on this exciting new program, take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions page, or reach our to your PSU Admissions Counselor.

Tips for How to Choose a Major

What fuels you?

It’s a big question, and one that you don’t need to have all figured out right now. College is, above all things, an opportunity to explore your passions and discover for yourself what kind of impact you want to make on the world around you.

The first step in that journey is choosing a major. Picking a major can be  intimidating but what’s important to remember is that it’s not permanent. At Portland State you can double major, major and minor, or even change your major part way through your education.  At PSU there are more than 120 majors, minors and concentrations for you to choose from. We’ll help you find your passion.

So, how do you choose? Here’s our tips.


1.  Ask yourself: What are my interests?

For most students, choosing a major isn’t just about career options. Rather, the choice is based on what they are passionate about. Looking back on which subjects you loved in school, volunteer opportunities that influenced you, or even the jobs of your role models can help make the choice a lot easier. What’s most important is what YOU want, not what others want for you.

2.  Compare your interests with PSU’s list of degree programs.

PSU has tons of majors to choose from, and thinking about which programs will best match up with your interests is a good way to narrow down your choices.

Love comic books and graphic novels? Try our Comics Studies program, one of the few programs of its kind in the country. Into nature? Try Geology or Environmental Science. Want to help people? We have some of the most involved Social Work and Pre-Health programs in the Pacific Northwest.

3.  Get out of your comfort zone.

Because PSU offers so many different fields of study, there are thousands of unique, interesting classes to take regardless of major or degree track. Most majors on campus encourage exploring electives and courses outside of one specific degree program so that students can gain a broader range of experiences and knowledge.

4.  Don’t worry if you haven’t figured it out just yet.

Entering as an Undecided/Exploratory major is not something that will keep you from graduating in four years. It’s not uncommon for new students to be unsure of what they want to study, and we understand this. The University Studies programs provides Undecided majors the opportunity to explore classes in a wide range of majors, but never pressures students to choose a program if they are not ready.

5.  Check out Advising and Career Services.

The Office of Advising and Career Services is an on-campus resource specifically designed to help students find their passions and land careers that use the skills they learn in the classroom.

Counselors in Advising and Career Services can help put you in touch with programs on campus that share your interests, as well as help you get started on a specific degree track. They are there to help you, and meeting with them is covered by your student fees.


No need for anxiety! Picking a major doesn’t have to be a stressful decision for you. Whether you are ready to dive into your field of study and know exactly what your major is going to work towards, or if you need some more time and want to get in the rhythm of college life, Portland State is here to support you.

Explore PSU’s 120+ majors, minors and certifications!

Four Years Free

Earning a college degree is one of the best ways to access a fulfilling career path, and graduating with as little debt as possible gives you even more freedom to pursue your passions.

Let us introduce you to Four Years Free, a new program with a bold commitment: If you are an eligible Oregon resident, PSU will cover standard tuition and mandatory fees for all four years of your bachelor’s degree, plain and simple.

At PSU, we are committed to your success and we want you to join the ranks of PSU graduates who are making a difference, whether that means you’re designing at Nike, innovating at Intel, or winning the Pulitzer Prize.

Current Oregon residents are eligible for Four Years Free if they are:

  • Current residents of Oregon and graduate from an Oregon high school
  • Admissible to PSU as a first-year freshman for fall term
  • Have a 3.4+ cumulative unweighted high school GPA
  • Eligible to receive a federal Pell grant as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Enrolled, full-time at PSU (12 to 15 credits per term)

National data shows that students who start at a four-year college are more likely to graduate in four years. This is why we’ve made the commitment to help Oregon students earn a bachelor’s degree and set them on the right track for their careers.

There is no age limit, as long as you can be admitted as a first time freshman, you could be eligible for Four Years Free.

Your next steps:

  • Apply to PSU  (no later than May 1)
  • Submit your FAFSA by February 1 (don’t forget to add PSU: school code 003216)
  • Submit your final high school transcripts to PSU by August 1

Four Years Free means not having to worry about paying for tuition. Instead, you can focus on getting an internship, joining a club, attending events and getting to know downtown Portland.

Learn more about FYF