Road to College: Applying for Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Grants

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Applying for Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Grants

Financial aid is an immeasurably valuable resource when paying for college.  While many students worry that the cost of a higher education will keep college out of their reach, assistance packages are available to four out of five high school graduates. Applying for aid is not only helpful but, in many cases, necessary.  

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Four Year Colleges vs. Two Year Colleges

One option to consider is a program’s length: four year colleges are often more costly than two year programs.  If money is an issue, one option could be to attend a two year college while working a part-time job.  After you graduate, you’ll have enough money saved up to pay for your last two year’s at a four-year college.  

 Financial Aid

Combining Aid Packages, Scholarships and Loans

On the other hand, many students simply apply for scholarships and aid packages.  Then they combine these with loans. Currently, 80% of four-year students and 75% of two-year students receive some form of financial aid.

 Financial Aid

Considering Work Study

If loans and financial aid don’t cover the full expense, a student might also apply for a work-study program. In addition to providing further support, a student’s ability to hold down a job while pursuing a degree will put them in a great light when they start applying for jobs. 

Any opportunity to work gives students experience in the real-world.   Giving them opportunities to improve and see how valuable their education is.  

 Financial Aid

Scholarships

Another payment option may come from college-specific scholarships. While your school may offer you sport or need-based aid, it’s important to remember that nearly all scholarships are dependent on grades. This means you must maintain a specific GPA in order to continue to receive the scholarship.

In the end, payment plans are unique to each student. No matter how you finance your education, you’ll need to design a plan that fits your needs. Your high school or college guidance counselor or the financial aid office at your chosen university can guide you through this process.

 Financial Aid

Creating a Budget

When assembling an estimated budget, it’s important to make sure that you’re planning for every expense.  As a college student you’ll have living expenses, like rent and food in addition to tuition.  But you’ll also have educational expenses, such as computers and textbooks. Although tuition is the biggest part of your college cost, it’s far from the only expense you’ll need to prepare for. 

 Financial Aid

The FAFSA

As you begin this process, it’s vital that you fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Instructions can be found at the FAFSA website, fafsa.ed.gov.  Seventy-two hours after the FAFSA’s completion, you’ll receive customized budgeting information.  Like whether or not you qualify for a Pell Grant (government loans that don’t need to be paid back) or federally subsidized loans (low-interest, long-term loans). If your primary concern about debt is the ability to pay it back, you can also research and apply for scholarships and other non-federal grants. You can research available scholarships online at sites like studentscholarships.org. There’s always a way to fund an education, so always try to utilize all of the resources you have.  

 Financial Aid
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