Paying for College

Know that college is an option for you.

Depending on the career path you choose, earning a degree can be the launchpad to your success! We encourage you to explore many career pathways and career experience opportunities. Thinking about your future can feel overwhelming. But you’re not alone — you’re surrounded by adults who have been there. Talk with your school counselors, professionals and family about college and career goals.

Two students studying at a table

What is financial aid?

With support from financial aid, many students who can’t afford to pay for college on their own are able to enroll in college and earn a degree! Financial aid refers to money that helps you pay for college — and it comes in many forms. Some financial aid is a gift — like scholarships and grants. Other forms of financial aid, such as loans, have to be paid back. Financial aid is often awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Start searching for financial aid early!

Why does it matter?

Earn More Money, Find a Better Job, Reach Your Dreams


$62,609 a year is the average salary for a college graduate compared to high school dropouts who earn $11,667. Colorado’s workforce is changing, which makes getting a college degree more important than ever.


74% of all Colorado jobs by 2020 will require education beyond high school -- such as college, trade school, an apprenticeship or military service


Last year, DPS students like you earned more than $85 million in scholarships!

Step One: Fill out a FAFSA

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – Filling out a FAFSA is your first step to funding your education! Most financial aid requires a FAFSA.

FAFSA applications open on Oct. 1 for the following school year.

Financial aid is often given on a first-come, first-served basis, so it is important for students to submit their FAFSA as close to Oct.1 as possible.

In order to complete the FAFSA, students will need:

  • Federal tax returns
  • Social security numbers for student (and parents if they have them)
  • Date of birth 
  • Your driver’s license or government ID

Once you begin the FAFSA process, you’ll be given a Federal Student Aid (FSA) identification.

For more information, chat with your school counselor, your college’s financial aid office or visit FAFSA’s site.

Computer monitor with FAFSA website

Step Two: Learn about the different types of financial aid

Grant Paperwork


are based on a student's financial need and do not have to be repaid.

Scholarship Award


are awarded based on merit (academic, athletic or talent) and do not have to be repaid.

Work Study Badge


programs give you the opportunity to work for your college as a student and get paid. Income is tax-exempt.

Loan Arrows


have a fixed interest rate and must be paid back to lending institution.

What are the benefits of getting a college degree?

There are many benefits of earning a college degree. For most people, the ability to earn more money is the driving force, as we know that college graduates earn, on average, $62,609 annually compared to high school dropouts, who earn $11,667 annually. A college degree can open up career opportunities, which could lead to higher job security and satisfaction. A college degree is an investment in your future.

What happens after I submit the FAFSA? Am I done? What's next?

Here are steps you can take after you submit your FAFSA to make sure you’re on track to receive financial aid:

Look out for your student aid report from FAFSA, which confirms your FAFSA is complete. On your student aid report is a number called “Estimated Family Contribution”, or “EFC” for short. That number is sent to the college(s) that you designated in your FAFSA. Colleges will then send you your “Financial Aid Award Letter” which outlines the types and amount of aid you’re eligible to receive.

After you receive your award letter, what happens next can vary depending on the college. Sometimes, colleges will have you login to your student portal for financial aid verification requirements, maybe your school sends an email communicating verification requirements or maybe it is handled in a different way. Make sure you are checking your college-assigned email for correspondence and be proactive and follow up with your college for next steps.

When you receive your student aid report, make sure you review and request any adjustments if there are errors. For example, perhaps you have a new address, or your tax information needs to be updated. If your FAFSA needs corrections, you’ll need to login to FAFSA’s website to request changes.

I don’t think I’ll get a scholarship. What’s the point?

Last year, DPS students (like you!) earned more than $85 million in scholarships. There are many different types of scholarships that students have the possibility of receiving, including:

  • Academic
  • Average academic performance
  • Athletic
  • Scholarships for minorities
  • Scholarships for women
  • Creative scholarships
  • Unusual scholarships

What do I need to complete the FAFSA? What financial documents are needed? How long does it take to fill out a FAFSA?

It doesn’t take you very long (around 30 minutes), but you do need to make sure you have several items on hand to successfully complete the FAFSA. These items include:

  • Your Social Security number or for eligible noncitizens, your Permanent Resident Card
  • Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool)
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • An FSA ID to sign electronically and transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA

Should you need help collecting this information, chat with your school counselor or teachers.

What are my options when it comes to financial aid opportunities and how do I know which option or combination of options are right for me to avoid over-borrowing?

Gift aid (grants and scholarships) is always the preferred option versus self-help aid (loans and work study). Start with accepting free money first (scholarships and grants), then earned money (work-study) and then determine whether or not you will need to borrow money (federal student loans).

I don’t think I’ll qualify for financial aid. Is my family’s income too high to qualify?

If eligible to complete the FAFSA, all students are eligible for loans regardless of their family’s income. You should also apply for scholarships.

What happens if I drop out of college? Do I still have to pay back what I borrowed?

Dropping out of college may result in a Pell Grant repayment. In order to keep the financial aid you’ve been awarded, you must complete your classes. If you are not meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements, you could be required to repay some or all of the financial aid you’ve received if you drop, fail or withdraw from your classes.

What are the consequences on my financial aid if I don’t pass my classes?

In order to maintain your eligibility for financial aid, you must meet all of the requirements of SAP (Satisfactory Academic Progress).

  • Complete at least 67% of the credits you attempt overall
  • Maintain a minimum 2.0 overall G.P.A. (Grade Point Average)
  • Complete at least one credit per attending semester
  • Complete your degree/certificate within 150% of the total number of credits required to graduate

What's the difference between loans, work study, grants and scholarships?

  • Scholarships: scholarships are gifts. They don’t need to be repaid. Scholarships can be offered by colleges/schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups and professional and social organizations.
  • Grants: grants are financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid (unless you withdraw from school and owe a refund).
  • Work-study: work-study is a work program through which you earn money to help you pay for college.
  • Loans: loans are borrowed money that must be repaid with interest. Direct Subsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. The federal government pays the interest for Direct Subsidized Loans while the student is in college or while the loan is in deferment. Direct Unsubsidized Loans are made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, and eligibility is not based on financial need. Interest begins accruing as soon as the Direct Unsubsidized Loan is taken out.

Start with grants, scholarships and work-study opportunities first. If you do not earn enough through those options, then look into student loans. Choose federal over private loans for a lower interest rate and flexible repayment plan. 

What are the benefits of taking free college while in high school through Concurrent Enrollment?

By earning transferable college credits while still in high school, students save both time and money and ease the transition to college. Through Concurrent Enrollment, students are exposed to the rigors of college at an earlier age, better preparing them for postsecondary success. With the ICAP process, Concurrent Enrollment allows students to take courses that are of personal interest to them. Additionally, students who participate in Concurrent Enrollment are eligible to apply for ASCENT.

Where should I go for more information? What are some helpful links?

For more information, please see your school counselor or college financial aid office and visit:  

Did you know?

According to the College Board, most full-time college students receive some kind of financial aid. Talk to your counselor about your documentation status. He or she can help you navigate options to pay for college!

DPS seniors apply for college and scholarships with support from counselors, teachers and family.
DPS seniors apply for college and scholarships with support from counselors, teachers and family.


You can earn free college while in high school! Ask your teachers and counselor about Concurrent Enrollment.