Understanding Your Financial Aid

Financial aid is defined as any monetary support provided to students for purposes of meeting educational costs. Scholarship and grant aid are considered gifts and, therefore, do not need to be repaid. Loans must be repaid and should be considered serious commitments. Work-study is a way for students to earn money in order to contribute to their college costs. Students who submit the required applications are considered for all types of aid and financial aid packages are awarded according to the student’s eligibility. Full-time enrollment each semester is required to receive the full amount of aid for which a student is eligible.

Answers to students’ most frequently asked questions can be found below. If you need further assistance, please contact the Office of Financial Aid at (315) 781-3315 or finaid@hws.edu


Institutional Aid

Merit-based scholarships do not require annual reapplication to be renewed and award amounts remain the same for each of a student’s four years at the Colleges, as long as the student maintains satisfactory academic and social standing at the Colleges. HWS grants, however, require that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) be filed each year. Significant changes in a family’s financial situation could affect a student’s HWS grant amount from one year to the next.

State Aid

Residents of New York State may be eligible for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Qualifying income is determined by state mandate. Estimated awards are included in aid packages for students who appear to be eligible. The official award amount is determined by New York State upon completion of the TAP application and passage of the NYS budget.

States other than New York may also provide grants for student residents of their respective state who engage in out-of-state study. Vermont, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia, for example, offer assistance that can be used at Hobart and William Smith. Students should contact their state agencies for more information.

Federal Aid

Pell Grants are awarded by the government to students who have the highest calculated need, as determined by the FAFSA. Students who receive a Pell Grant and have significant financial need may also receive a Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG); this is determined by the Colleges.

Direct subsidized and/or unsubsidized loans are low-interest student loans available to assist with educational expenses and are included as part of the self-help portion of your financial aid award package. The maximum loan amount a student can borrow is determined by class year. First year students can borrow up to $5,500, second year students can borrow up to $6,500 and third and fourth year students can borrow up to $7,500. No interest accrues on subsidized loans until six months after the student drops below half-time enrollment. Unsubsidized loan borrowers though, are responsible for interest during all in-school and grace periods. Repayment of both student loans begins six months post enrollment.


Work-study is part of the self-help portion of financial aid; students are encouraged but not required to work on-campus and, if interested in working, students must be proactive in applying for open positions. Whether federal or institutional, the award of work-study is not a guarantee of funds and it will not be deducted from your bill. Students who choose to work on-campus will receive a bi-weekly paycheck for wages earned. The Office of Financial Aid awards work-study; however, the Office of Human Resources handles all other aspects of student employment.

Outside Awards

Outside award are those not offered by Hobart and William Smith Colleges. These awards often come from civic associations, high school graduation, regional, state, and national foundations, and employers, etc.

We require all students who are receiving financial aid from HWS to report all outside awards that they receive from sources other than the Colleges.

Federal regulations state that these awards must be used in determining eligibility for federal funds. Students who earn an outside award will be allowed to use the award to reduce self-help, which is defined as work study and federal student loans. A student’s HWS funding will be reduced as a last resort.

We encourage all students to actively seek scholarships outside of HWS to supplement their financial aid award. These will be listed as an “External Grant” on your financial aid award offer.

If you have received an outside award, please complete this form.


What materials are required to apply for financial aid?

First-time financial aid applicants who are U.S. Citizens or permanent residents must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). International students must complete the CSS Profile. Current students who are renewing their financial aid for the upcoming year should submit the FAFSA only.

If I am only interested in merit-based scholarships do I need to submit the CSS PROFILE and/or FAFSA?

No. If you are solely interested in merit aid you are not required to submit an aid application. Please review our merit award webpage to review the application materials and deadlines for each of our scholarships.

My parents are divorced/separated/were never married. Who should submit the aid applications?

The parent who you spend more than 50% of your time with will be considered the custodial parent for aid purposes. If your time is split evenly between both parents, the parent who supports you financially more than 50% will be considered the custodial parent.

My family makes too much money to qualify for aid. Do I still need to complete the financial aid applications?

We suggest that anyone who is interested in or needs aid, regardless of income and assets, submit the FAFSA to see what they qualify for. There is no set income limit that disqualifies families from receiving aid; every family’s situation is different and we evaluate them for aid accordingly.

Can I receive more than one merit-based scholarship?

Students can apply for as many scholarships as they choose. Students will be considered for all scholarships that they apply, but will only be awarded one.


When will I receive notification of my financial aid award?

First Year and Transfer applicants will receive their financial aid award upon acceptance. Returning students will receive their aid award for the upcoming year in late spring of the current year. Financial aid awards will also be reflected on your tuition bill.

Is my financial aid award guaranteed for all four years?

Merit-based scholarships are guaranteed for all four years, provided that a student maintains Satisfactory Academic Progress, or meet the requirements that are specific to the merit award they received. All other aid must be reapplied for each year by filing the FAFSA. If your family’s financial situation remains relatively the same from one year to the next you can expect your need-based aid to remain relatively the same from one year to the next.

Do I have to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) to keep my scholarship or grant funding?

Yes. All students must meet Satisfactory Academic Progress to remain eligible for all types of financial aid at HWS. Typically this means a 2.0 GPA and regular, full-time enrollment.

How do I decline/reduce a portion of my aid award?

Send an email to finaid@hws.edu stating which awards you would like to decline/reduce and for which semester(s). The financial aid office will confirm the change by emailing a revised aid award letter.

Does HWS award athletic aid/scholarships?

No. As a Division III institution, HWS is prohibited from awarding athletic aid.

Are there other aid resources available?

Yes. Parents may borrow a Federal Direct PLUS Loan on behalf of their child’s education. A parent can request up to the cost of attendance minus any other financial aid the student is awarded. The Department of Education is the lender of the Federal Direct PLUS Loan. Private education loans may be borrowed by the student and a credit-worthy co-borrower who does not have to be the parent. These loans are made through a private lender, not the government. Additional information on all loan types can be found in our Loan and Resource Center.

Will my financial aid award increase if the cost of attendance increases in subsequent years?

No. Annual increases in tuition, room and board charges are offset by the student’s increase in federal loan eligibility. Need-based grants are awarded at the time the student enrolls at HWS. Provided that the family’s financial situation, household size, and number in college does not change, the grant will remain the same for all subsequent years. Students who continue to meet satisfactory academic progress, demonstrate financial aid eligibility and meet financial aid filing deadlines will continue to receive assistance.

Will I receive more financial aid if I maintain good grades or if I am involved on campus?

No. Merit-based scholarships (with the exception of the Arts Scholarship) are awarded to students only when they enter HWS and are not increased later. Need-based awards are re-evaluated each year upon receipt of the FAFSA. All students must meet Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) to be eligible for all types of financial aid at HWS.


When is my payment due?

Fall semester bills are sent electronically in early July with an August 1 due date. Spring semester bills are sent electronically in early December with a January 5 due date.

Does HWS offer a payment plan?

Families can enroll in an interest free payment plan through Nelnet Business Solutions. Further information can be found on the Office of Student Accounts webpage or by contacting the Office of Student Accounts at (315) 781-3343.

Can I use a credit card to pay my bill?

HWS does not accept credit card payments. Online payments can be made using a checking or savings account. Checks can be mailed to the Student Accounts Office, 300 Pulteney Street, Geneva, N.Y. 14456. More information on payment options can be found on the Office of Student Accounts webpage.

I received a scholarship. Where should I send the check?

All outside scholarship checks should be sent to: Student Accounts, 300 Pulteney Street, Geneva, NY 14456. If the check is made payable to the student rather than HWS, it must be endorsed by the student.