For many admitted students, the joy of acceptance is quickly shifting to fear of money. Getting accepted was the easy part; now you've got to come up with over $100k to actually PAY for it! Many students get scholarships to help ease the burden of the financial commitment. Others (such as myself) were lucky enough to receive very generous aid packages and scholarships/fellowships. Many, however, will be forced to max out their available federal lending options.
First, a quick overview. And feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. When you get accepted, the school will tell you how much tuition is and the estimated cost of living. This total number is the Cost Of Attendance (COA). Let's say for our purposes the number is $75k (ie, $50k for tuition and $25k for cost of living). Now, to figure out how much you can borrow from the government, you subtract two numbers: your Estimated Family Contribution (this number comes from filling out the FAFSA) and any scholarships/grants awarded. Let's assume you get a $20k scholarship each year (good job!) and your EFC is zero. $75k - $20k = $50k. That's the total amount you can borrow from the federal loans. From there, you can borrow $20,500 from the Stafford loan program (between Subsidized and Unsubsidized) and the rest must come from the GRADPlus program, up to the total COA. If you need more money than that, I hope you've got savings!
My scholarship covers my full tuition plus a stipend and an international trip. I'm not exactly sure what that means, so I've got a meeting scheduled with a financial aid rep for the admitted students weekend. I've already started the FAFSA (one more piece of advice...START NOW!) and hope to have that submitted within the next day or so. Luckily, I shouldn't need to borrow too much money in order to finance my education. Limiting the amount of debt is a huge advantage for me, especially in this market. Carrying $150k in loans at graduation is not an enviable position.