Congratulations — you’ve been accepted to college! That means you’re now mere months away from strolling down the long green lawns and amid the stately stone buildings of campus.

There’s just the issue of paying for it, which is no small undertaking, even at regional institutions that are traditionally more affordable than private or flagship schools. The first step for any prospective student seeking monetary assistance is to complete the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which gathers financial information on the student’s family to determine how much they can afford to pay for college.

For many students, the FAFSA is the gateway to a financial aid package that can make college much more affordable. But if the family is deemed to have too many assets, the FAFSA might not be of much help. In that situation, there are other areas where students who have already been accepted to college can search for financial assistance, according to Bryan Erslan, Director of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships at Eastern Kentucky University.

1. Merit-based Scholarships

EKU has general merit-based scholarships available for several different types of students, including those enrolling for the first time, transferring from another institution, or already in school. Based on standardized test scores and past academic history, incoming freshmen accepted by Feb. 1 are automatically considered for a host of merit scholarships that can award up to $16,000 annually, and have GPA minimums for renewal.

Transfer scholarships and retention scholarships for current students also come with certain academic guidelines that must be met. Transfer students can qualify for up to $4,000 annually, and current students for varying amounts based on demonstrated financial need.

2. The SMART Program

While not a scholarship, the SMART program can help reduce the financial burden on out-of-state students attending EKU. Students from 16 participating states, Indiana and Ohio among them, can qualify for tuition at a reduced rate of $5,000 per semester, often lower than in-state costs at schools in their home states. The SMART program is available to both incoming freshmen and transfers with a GPA of 2.5 or better. Once in school, students may remain enrolled in the program as long as they meet satisfactory academic progress.

3. Foundation Scholarships

Thanks to generous donors, the Eastern Kentucky University Foundation awards a number of scholarships throughout all colleges and department levels. Many are earmarked for qualifying students in specific fields of study; others are allocated specifically for one group or another, like women, ROTC participants, or part-time first responders.

4. Alumni Scholarships

Like many universities, EKU has a scholarship available for legacy students whose parents, grandparents, or spouses are graduates of the school. EKU International Alumni Association Scholarships are chosen each spring by the EKU Alumni Board based on the merits of application. The scholarships are one-year awards for which students must apply annually.

5. Outside Scholarships

Universities aren’t the only entities that award scholarships; many are offered by organizations or bodies outside the school, although tracking them down can take some work. Erslan urges accepted students to look at websites such as FastWeb and The College Board, both of which offer free, searchable scholarship databases, and not to fall for services that ask them to pay to look for outside scholarships.

Even outside of the FAFSA process, there remains billions of dollars in financial aid waiting to be given away, according to The College Board. Erslan recommends that accepted students and their families meet with their school’s financial aid office to ensure no possibilities are overlooked.

“I tell families this, just as a kind of general rule: our office is here to help families finance their education,” Erslan says. “We want to work with them the best we can, find the best options for students, and hopefully make an EKU education affordable to them.”

The Office of Student Financial Assistance at Eastern Kentucky University  is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and can be reached via an online form, by email at finaid@eku.edu, or by calling (859) 622-2361.