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Undergraduate Admissions Admitted Students

Important Information about Student Financial Aid and Scholarships

How to Apply

  • You and your parents (unless you are independent according to the federal qualifications presented on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) should individually obtain a Federal Student Aid ID (FSAID) at  
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online at
  • Be sure to include USC Columbia’s school code number, 003448.
  • Use your FSAID (and your parents’ if applicable) as your electronic signature(s) for the fastest and most accurate processing. 

When to Apply

You should submit your FAFSA as soon after October 1 as possible. You may apply for financial aid before you are admitted, but you must be admitted to the University in order to be awarded. You will need to submit a new FAFSA each year to continue to receive the financial aid for which you are eligible.

FAFSA Application Information

  • A complete application includes your FAFSA and any requested supporting documentation.
  • When you complete your FAFSA online, be sure to use the new IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically complete parts of the application. With this tool, you can use your completed tax return to fill out parts of your application automatically! It’s easy, it helps you avoid mistakes, and can make the entire aid application process easier. If you complete your FAFSA before filing your tax return(s), be sure to visit FAFSA on the web after filing your return and use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to update your information. If you complete your FAFSA after filing your return(s), be sure to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool during the application process. In either case, it is important that you use this tool to demonstrate or confirm that your tax related information on the FAFSA is completely accurate.
  • Unless requested to do otherwise, you will be notified via your University assigned e-mail address when your financial aid award is available to review on the University’s secure Self Service Carolina system.
  • Transfer students should be sure that final transcripts from all prior institutions are received at the University to ensure that eligibility for all financial aid programs can be correctly determined.

Application Verification

If documentation is required to verify what you listed on your FAFSA, we will contact you and advise you of what we need. Please be prepared to respond thoroughly and immediately to make your application complete as soon as possible. Until all requested information is received and any adjustments to your original filing documents are completed, your application is considered incomplete and cannot be awarded.


South Carolina residents should not overlook their responsibility to apply to the University for state resident status as required by state law. Until you have done so, you will be considered a non-resident and potentially be billed at the non-resident tuition rate. In addition, if you are eligible to receive a South Carolina LIFE or HOPE Scholarship, these awards cannot be finalized until your state residency has been confirmed. Contact the South Carolina Residency Office at 803-777-4060 if you have questions.

Special Circumstances

If you or your family have experienced circumstances not reflected on your FAFSA that will affect your ability to pay for college, you may contact our office for an individualized professional review of your aid eligibility. Be prepared to document your change in circumstances in writing and to provide appropriate documentation to support your request for special consideration.

Types and Sources of Financial Aid and Scholarships

There are four basic types of student financial aid: scholarships – awards typically based on merit or special skills and talents; grants – aid that typically doesn’t require any work or repayment and for which eligibility is based on your family’s economic situation; student employment or part-time work on campus; and loans, some based on financial need, some not, but all requiring repayment. Student financial aid comes from four sources: the federal government, state governments, the institution, and private sources. The FAFSA is required for all federal aid resources, the South Carolina Need-Based Grant, and most institutional and private aid resources that are awarded to recognize the recipient’s financial need.

Non-University Financial Aid and Scholarships

Non-University financial aid and scholarship checks and authorizations should be sent to the University Bursar’s Office as soon as possible so that they can be processed and made available for fee payment. Many University of South Carolina students earn scholarships from non-University sources; all University students are encouraged to actively seek scholarship and financial aid support from any sources about which they have knowledge.

South Carolina Lottery Assistance Scholarships at the University of South Carolina

Approximately 97% of each year’s entering freshmen who are SC residents are awarded one of the three lottery assistance scholarships available to USC students. Palmetto Fellows Scholarships are selected by the SC Commission on Higher Education. Freshman recipients receive $6,700; eligible upperclassmen receive $7,500 annually. For more information, contact the Commission or your high school guidance counselor. Legislative Incentives for Future Excellence (LIFE) Scholarships are $5,000 scholarships awarded by USC to incoming freshmen who meet two of the following three requirements: an SAT of at least 1100 on the critical reading and math sections or an ACT composite score of at least 24; a final high school GPA of at least 3.00; or graduating in the top 30% of your class. The South Carolina HOPE Scholarship is awarded by USC to freshman residents who graduate with a 3.00 high-school grade point average but don’t meet the LIFE Scholarship requirements. HOPE Scholarships are valued at $2,800. State scholarship recipients must enroll on a full-time basis and be in a degree-seeking program. USC will attempt to identify and award all students who are eligible for LIFE and HOPE Scholarships. If you feel you are eligible but haven’t been awarded, be sure that you have completed the state’s legal residency requirements and then contact the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships. If you are a transfer student, any lottery assistance scholarship for which you may be eligible can only be finalized with USC’s complete knowledge of your academic record prior to your transfer. Be sure that your final transcript(s) has been mailed to and received by Undergraduate Admissions so that an eligibility determination can be finalized. Then, if you have any further questions, please contact the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Student Loans

Borrowing is a necessity for many, but remember, loans have to be repaid. We recommend you manage your student loan debt very carefully, and do not borrow unnecessarily, particularly through unsubsidized federal or private loans. Almost every student who submits the FAFSA and completes any additional application verification requirements will be awarded Federal Direct Student Loans. Subsidized Direct Loans will be interest free to the borrower while enrolled at least half-time; Non-Subsidized Direct Loans will begin accruing interest expense to the borrower at the time the loan is utilized. Additional loans may be awarded by the University or may be requested by the borrower to assist in paying educational expenses. Any loans that are awarded by the University will require all borrowers to accept the loans on Self Service Carolina or in writing; and, first-time borrowers will have to sign a master promissory note and complete entrance counseling before the loan can be finalized and made available for paying college expenses.

Using Your Financial Aid and Scholarships to Pay Your University Charges

Students must pay any charges that financial aid does not cover before the fee payment deadline. Specific information will be provided when you are notified about your tuition and fees payment becoming due. Fee payment or making arrangements to pay fees through the University’s deferred payment plan must be made by the payment due date for each particular enrollment period.

Satisfactory Academic Progress for Financial Aid Eligibility Policy

Aid recipients must comply with this policy that defines qualitative (grades) and quantitative (class completion) requirements as well as the maximum period of time that students can receive aid. It is important to note that while dropping one or two courses during your academic career should not affect your financial aid eligibility, dropping classes semester after semester or wholesale dropping of most or all classes in any given semester could cause you eligibility concerns. Any time that you are dropping more than a single course, it would be a good idea to check with the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships to assure that you are not creating an eligibility problem for yourself.

A Word of Warning

The University of South Carolina discourages students and their families from paying any “agent” offering to assist in the completion of the FAFSA or scholarship searches. Any assistance that they provide is available at no expense and with an equal level of accomplishment.

For Additional Information or Assistance

For more information regarding these or related topics, please visit the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships web site: To talk with a staff member or to ask questions; e-mail; call 803-777-8134; or stop by to visit us at the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, 1714 College Street, Columbia, SC 29208.

Undergraduate Admissions Admitted Students