How to Read Your Financial Aid Award

The hard part’s over—you’ve been admitted to PSU! We bet another big question is now on your mind. How are you going to pay for college?

Once you get your financial aid award in the mail and start reading what funds you’ve been offered, it can be hard to understand what it all means. Especially when you want to know, in hard numbers, how much going to PSU will cost. We’re here to help and to break it down for you.

Your financial aid award is based off the information you provided in your financial aid application, your academic accomplishments and your residency status.

Your student account at is your go-to place to see information about your financial aid award and submit documents. If you haven’t already, use your PSU ID (your ID is at the top of financial aid award sheet) to set up your student account by going to This will give you access to banweb and to your student email account.

Important Deadlines

May 1 is the deadline to accept your financial aid award in the “Financial Aid” tab in Banweb.

August 1 is the deadline to submit any outstanding documents. You won’t know for sure how much money you’ll get until you submit all required documents. Submitting them after the deadline may delay your financial aid or result in the loss of an award. Log into your student account at Banweb and look at “Outstanding Documents” in your “Financial Aid” tab to see what you still need to submit.

Read more detailed information about your financial aid award.

Now, let’s look at your 2019-20 Financial Aid Award sheet. You’ll see something like this:

Financial Aid Award

The amounts will vary depending on your residency and what scholarships, grants, federal work study and loans you qualify for. Keep in mind these numbers are estimates, but it gives you a good idea about what you should expect to pay. Let’s break things down even further.

Cost of Tuition and Books

Your annual tuition rate is based on full time enrollment, where you take 15 credits per term for 3 terms a year (students are eligible for financial aid for full time enrollment if they are taking at least 12 credits per term). Each undergraduate credit translates to 1 hour in class per week, and classes vary between 1-4 credits each. Also, keep in mind that some majors have higher rates per credit for tuition, like engineering and art majors.

Tuition rates differ depending on whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. You may even qualify for the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), a program that offers qualifying, out-of-state students 150% of in-state tuition. Learn more in our dedicated blog.

The cost of books and supplies is also an estimate. It takes into account textbooks, lab materials, software, pens, notebooks, etc. You can save money in many ways, like renting your books at the PSU bookstore.

Grants and Scholarships

This section covers your grants and scholarships—free money to help you pay for college. Grants usually come from the federal government and help low-income students pay for tuition. Scholarships can come from the government too, but they also come from corporations and the university. They are usually merit-based, meaning students can get money for almost any skill or interest they have.

Remember, if you receive non-PSU scholarships, you must report them to Financial Aid at to make sure they’re calculated and available for you to use.

Other Expenses

College costs can’t be summed up in just tuition, however, so we give you an estimate for your other living expenses. The housing estimates are annual and based on on-campus housing rates. If you’re living at home, for example, your housing cost will be much different. Since these costs vary so widely, make sure to calculate your actual housing, transportation and other living costs. The total estimated cost of attendance in this section doesn’t factor in grants, scholarships, loans, work study or other ways you could pay for college.

Ways to Pay

If you need more help paying for college, there are other options for you to consider. You could qualify for Federal Work Study, a type federal student aid offered to qualified students based on financial need and availability of funds. But if you’re not offered Federal Work Study, you can apply for on-campus jobs—working at PSU is great because we work with your class schedule and prioritize your learning.

Loans, unlike scholarships and grants, must be paid back after you’re out of school. Loans are a shortfall between the funds you HAVE and the funds you NEED. Before you take out a student loan, connect with the Financial Wellness Center coaches for guidance.

Figuring out how you’ll pay for college can be daunting, but there are many ways it can be affordable. If you’re still confused, check out the Financial Aid website—they have more examples of financial aid awards and how to read them. Don’t hesitate to contact Financial Aid if you have questions.

If you want to learn more about all these financial aid options, check out our blog all about understanding financial aid.


Pell Grant Review

Three students thinking about their future.

Figuring out how you will pay for college is stressful and exhausting. There are many funding opportunities, and it’s difficult to determine what you qualify for and how to apply. The Pell Grant, a federally-funded grant, is an excellent source of money for students with high financial need. In order to get the Pell Grant you must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We recommend completing the FAFSA ASAP so you don’t have to worry about it later.

Over 8,500 students attending PSU received the Pell Grant in 2016-17 academic year.

So, what is a grant? Unlike loans, grants are not expected to be paid back. That’s free money to help you achieve your education goals! And unlike other federal student aid, the Pell Grant can be used to cover more than just tuition and fees, like books, transportation, housing and other living expenses.

How to Apply

First, complete the FAFSA! Remember to add PSU as one of your colleges when you fill out the FAFSA (if you’ve already submitted it, you can go back in and add us).

The amount you can receive with the Pell Grant is based on financial need, cost of enrollment, and the length of time you will be in college. The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2018-19 academic year is $6,095 (this amount changes each year). If you’re not ready to complete the FAFSA, you can still estimate your Pell Grant award with the FAFSA4caster.

Check out our blog post dedicated to demystifying the FAFSA.


The Pell Grant provides funding for students to get their education. Here are the eligibility factors:

  • Financial need: Financial need is calculated based on cost of attendance and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is not a number you have to come up with on your own—it’s calculated when you fill out the FAFSA. Once you complete the FAFSA, it will tell you (and PSU, if you add PSU as one of your schools) if you are eligible.
  • Enrollment: You must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment at a participating institution—PSU is one!
  • Student status: You must have earned a high school diploma, completed an approved home-school education through the high school level or earned a GED. You must also be an undergraduate student who has not yet earned a bachelor’s, associate or professional degree.
  • Citizenship: You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen.

* Undocumented students cannot receive federal grants, but they can receive state grants by filling out the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA).

Other Ways PSU Is Making College Affordable

Pell Grant eligible students may be able to defer their application fee, meaning they can apply to PSU and pay the fee on their first tuition bill. Students who are Pell Grant eligible are often eligible for other funding programs through PSU, including:  

  • Four Years Free: PSU will cover standard tuition and mandatory fees for the first four years for income-eligible Oregon freshmen.
  • Transfers Finish Free: PSU will cover standard tuition and mandatory fees for income-eligible Oregon transfers.

Our goal is to have students graduate on time with as little debt as possible. So if you qualify for the Pell Grant, don’t forget to check out other scholarships we offer.

You can always contact us for more information about the Pell Grant and other sources of funding.

Winning with WUE

The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) is a decades-old program that aims to make colleges such as Portland State, more affordable for nonresidents. Qualifying students pay 150% of in-state tuition. Resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in savings over the course of your degree. And the best part—all students are automatically considered for WUE if they apply to PSU by February 1.

Portland State University is proud to be the only research university in Oregon that participates in the WUE program.

Cost of Annual Tuition and Fees at 15 Credits Per Term (2018-19)

In-State WUE Out-of-State
$9,223 $13,107*  $27,437

*Does not include room and board, books or personal expenses.

What Is It Like Being a WUE Student?

Right now, there are over 2,000 WUE students attending PSU, 1,728 who entered as freshmen and 323 who entered as transfers. Students from almost every WUE locale attend PSU, our largest groups coming from California and Washington. But those are just the numbers. We asked Fernando Gomez, new transfer from Arizona studying film, what his WUE experience has been like.

“I found out about WUE after I was accepted to PSU. I got a call from one of the admissions counselors, who told me I qualified. I’ve always been a full-time student, so it’s necessary for me to find ways to pay for school. I knew I wanted to attend PSU, so WUE was just a bonus!”

Because Portland is a cultural hub, students have easy access to many events. Just hop on the amazing public transit from campus—the Portland Streetcar is free to students—and get anywhere in Portland in no time. “Living on campus puts me right in the center of the city, which makes it possible for me to pursue my passions on and off campus.”

Fernando is excited that WUE is helping him afford college in a city that allows him to work toward his dream career. “The weather is cool, the city is culturally diverse, and it’s cheaper than all the other big cities that would allow me to pursue my film studies.” PSU’s Film Program, the most comprehensive film program in the Northwest, is always pushing Fernando to get involved. “PSU has great equipment available for students. There are also lots of companies in Portland that offer internships to PSU students, so they can get hands-on experience.”

WUE is just the ticket to get the out-of-state college experience without paying those prices.


  1. Apply for fall term by the WUE deadline: February 1 is the deadline for both freshmen and transfer students.
  2. Be a legal resident of one of the following states or territories: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
  3. Meet PSU’s academic requirements for WUE:
    • Freshmen Academic Requirements: 3.5 cumulative unweighted high school GPA or 1270 SAT or 27 ACT composite
    • Transfer Academic Requirements: 3.0 cumulative college GPA

Learn more about WUE

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

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.


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

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.

PSU Introduces Four Years Free

At Portland State, we want you to graduate on time with as little debt as possible. Allow us to introduce Four Years Free. If you are an eligible Oregon resident, we will cover standard tuition and mandatory fees.


  • Current resident of Oregon
  • Graduate from an Oregon high school
  • Admissible to PSU as a first-year freshman for the fall 2017 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, 15 credits per term

Covered Costs

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

Application Deadlines

  • Apply to PSU by May 1, 2017
  • Submit all required admission materials
    • Official high school transcripts
    • SAT or ACT scores
  • Submit the FAFSA by February 1, 2017
    • PSU FAFSA school code: 003216
    • Accept all state and federal grants awarded

Four Years Means Four Years

Students who receive the Four Years Free award can keep receiving it throughout their undergraduate education (up to 12 consecutive terms of enrollment) by maintaining a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA, remaining eligible for the Pell Grant and completing the FAFSA application each year by Feb. 1.

View frequently asked questions.

Also…Full-time freshman can take advantage of our Four-Year Degree Guarantee, a unique program that ensures you get the counseling and classes you need to complete your degree in four years—or we’ll pay your tuition for any remaining courses. Learn more about how the Four-Year Degree Guarantee works.

We’re Here to Help You Create Your Scholarship Strategy


We know you’ve got a lot going on. With homework, after school jobs, extracurriculars, friends and family, (maybe a Netflix binge or two) it can be hard to imagine that you’ll have time to apply for college.

In an effort to make life easier for you, we put together some tools and tips to help you get started on your Portland State University admission and scholarship applications with as little stress as possible, leaving you with plenty of time to watch televis-, uh, get caught up on school work.

What do I need to know?

The deadline to apply for PSU Scholarships is December 1.

  • Scholarships are opportunities for free money you can use to pay for college. Scholarships can come from many different sources. 
  • There are many different scholarship types. Some scholarships are merit or skill-based, while some depend on how you are involved with your community, and some are based solely off financial need. It’s important to search for scholarships that most closely match your strengths and interests.
  • It’s a good idea to apply early. Many scholarships have early application deadlines, with most opening in the fall and closing quickly for next school year. This means that scholarship applications need to be submitted nearly a year in advance of when you plan to start school. The earlier you apply the more likely you are to get more money, and who doesn’t want more money?

What do I need to submit?

For most scholarships you will likely need to complete three to four components:

  1. Scholarship Application – This form is for your personal information, things like classes you are taking, grades, where you’re from, etc.
  2. Responses to Essay Questions – This is your chance to introduce yourself and highlight your experiences and achievements.
  3. Letters of Recommendation  Most students submit at least two from key influential professionals in your life that can speak to your character and accomplishments and want you to succeed. Got questions about asking for Letters? We can help!
  4. Interview – Some scholarships request an interviews with students. Check out our tips below on how to prepare for your scholarship interview and impress the committee. Remember to smile big!

How do I find scholarships?

Search for them! There are TONS of people and organizations just waiting to give you free money, you just have to find them first. To help, we have a great tool to
search for scholarships. You can narrow your search using:

  • Categories – Scholarships are often assigned category. This option allows you to identify and search the categories that you feel are most relevant to you.
  • Keyword(s) – Your school may assign a keyword to a scholarship (things like your major or test scores). This option allows you to search that keyword field.
  • Description and Scholarship Name – You can simply search the description or name of scholarships to see if they contain words that you might deem suitable (e.g. Biology).

Tips for Searching for Scholarships

Get Search, Application or Essay Help

PSU Scholarship Workshops

Open to all students, the Office of Financial Aid holds Scholarship Workshops every Fall term to help students create effective scholarship applications.

Check out their presentation from the most recent set of workshops.

All workshops are held on campus at the Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 238

PSU Advising & Career Services Workshops

PSU’s Advising and Career Services offers a selection of workshops aimed toward helping you choose a major and career, answering your questions about internships, preparing you for interviewing, perfecting your resume and cover letter, and more. No need to sign up in advance, just arrive in their office prior to the time the workshop is scheduled to begin.

Visit the PSU Writing Center

The Writing Center aims to help writers at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to the final draft. When preparing for a session, reflect on what you want to focus on the most. It is helpful to bring two drafts, one for you and one for the consultant. Also, if you are working on an assignment for class, bringing a copy of that assignment is preferable. Visit the PSU Writing Center website for more information and to schedule an appointment.

Schedule an Appointment with a PSU Financial Aid Counselor

Scholarship Interview Tips

  • Practice in as realistic a setting as possible.
  • Arrive on time, dressed appropriately.
  • Answer questions truthfully, decisively, positively, and with relevant information. Don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know” when you need to, and try to be ready for unusual questions that may be designed to see how you react.

How to Write a Request for a Letter of Reference


Some scholarships require letters of reference, which means you will have to reach out to some people in your life who know about your work ethic and personal achievements. If you’ve never done this before then it can be a daunting task.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on getting that perfect letter:

  1. Identify influential professionals in your life that challenge and inspire you.
  2. Ask them if they would be willing to write you a letter of reference for your scholarship application. (See example email message below. Use this reference request draft to reach out to them.These people may be high school counselors, mentors, academic advisors, coaches, teachers or college professors, leaders in a faith community or staff in a community or volunteer organization. These people should NOT be family members or personal friends of yours.
  3. If the scholarship you are applying for has specific requirements, ask your reference to highlight how you meet those requirements. Remember, the people writing your letter want you to succeed, and would love nothing more than to rave about your accomplishments.

Take a deep breath, and let’s write an email. It’s not scary, we promise.

Email Subject: A request for a letter of recommendation  

Email Body:

Dear [Name],

I am applying for the [scholarship name] scholarship and I am contacting you to request a letter of recommendation in support of my application.

I have included an updated resume that will give you a better idea of the classes and activities that I have been involved with.

I am hoping that you could focus on different aspects of my background, character, academics, and activities so the scholarship committee will get a broad sense of my life, skills and achievements.

Thank you for considering my request for a letter of recommendation. Please let me know if I can provide you with any other information about my recent activities or this request. Your support means a lot!

This letter is due on [date]

[Tell them how to submit the reference letter]

Thank you again!


[Your name]

Don’t forget to attach your resume! Including your resume allows your reference to write specifically about you and how great a fit you would be for the scholarship. There is no such thing as too much detail.

How to Write a Scholarship Essay

Starting an essay for a scholarship application can be difficult. We’ve created a strategy to help make it easier and move along faster! Let’s get started:

Write Your Profile: Write a short description about you. Explain why you’re great. Include your strengths, accomplishments, goals and unique characteristics. This may seem obvious but it can be one of the toughest parts to put into writing. It’s incredibly important for you to talk about yourself using a clear story. This will shine through in your essay and help you find relevant scholarships unique to your strengths.

Develop an Outline: This is the foundation of your essay. Preparing your outline before you get into the meat of your story will help you visualize your story from start to finish before putting too much time into writing the specifics. This will help the writing move forward with purpose!

Fill In Your Outline: This is the hard part. If you have a good outline, it will move along much faster. Use the outline below and fill in the gaps. Elaborate on your story, provide examples of your achievements and experience that are fluid and concise. A great writing resource is the Purdue OWL Writing Guide

Beginning | Hello!

Begin your essay by addressing the scholarship committee directly. Don’t go generic here! Be as specific to the scholarship name or agency as you can. A direct address with a specific scholarship or agency name will personalize your essay and level up your application!

Dear [Scholarship name or agency] committee,

Thank you for taking the time to read my application. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to introduce myself and present my accomplishments.

Remember, your essay is your chance to introduce yourself and make a first impression so make sure that your essay is clear, concise and quickly gets into your story. Read your essay out loud. If you’re not past your greeting and introduction within a few seconds, circle back to edit.

Middle | The body of your essay: Your story

Take a 1-2-3 approach to crafting your story:

  1. Past: What experiences, challenges, influences, passions, goals brought you to this point in your academic and life journey?
  2. Present: You are here! But why? Why PSU/Your Major/This School/Community etc.
  3. Future: Put it all together: Where are you headed? With your past experiences informing your current goals, where are you headed? What’s the next big step?

End | That’s a wrap!

Close your essay by explaining how this scholarship will help you achieve your goals. Don’t go generic here, list specific goals that will help you get to where you’re trying to go.

You only need to craft one solid, core essay. Once you build your core essay, you can use it for multiple scholarship applications with simple updates.

Get Search, Application or Essay Help

Sign Up for a PSU Scholarship Workshop

  • Thursday, October 20, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Friday, October 28, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Monday, November 07, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Tuesday, November 15, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Wednesday, November 30, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238

PSU Advising & Career Services Workshops

PSU’s Advising and Career Services offers a selection of workshops aimed toward helping you choose a major and career, answering your questions about internships, preparing you for interviewing, perfecting your resume and cover letter, and more. No need to sign up in advance, just arrive in their office prior to the time the workshop is scheduled to begin.

Visit the PSU Writing Center

The Writing Center aims to help writers at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to the final draft. When preparing for a session, reflect on what you want to focus on the most. It is helpful to bring two drafts, one for you and one for the consultant. Also, if you are working on an assignment for class, bringing a copy of that assignment is preferable. For more information, review our tips for a successful session. Schedule an appointment.

Schedule an Appointment with a PSU Financial Aid Counselor