Something I really need a lot of. Schools
usually assist students
that are in need by giving them loans
to ease the financial burden
There are usually a few types of financial aid in American colleges:
Grants (free money, the best)
Loans (usually no interest accumulated while you are still in school)
Work study (entices employers to hire you by paying part of your wages)
Scholarship (yeah, I wish)
Most of these are need-based, but some are merit-based. Most colleges say that they are need-blind (financial aid requests are ignored in admissions), but that is a filthy lie. Both Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University told me after I requested more aid that my admission status will be reviewed (this is after I got into both).
In short, if you don't need it, don't ask, it decreases your chances with the college. If you do, squeeze every bit out of it that you can.