How to Pay for College
Unless you are one of the lucky few who possess a hefty trust fund, or you have wealthy parents who are willing and able to bear the cost of your education, you are probably wondering how you will be able to meet all of your university expenses. Fortunately, there are plenty of financing options for students – virtually every college student, regardless of their economic circumstances, will be able to qualify for some type of financial assistance. Because there is such a wide range of options for student aid, learning about financial aid can be confusing – our aim is to make understanding financial aid easier and to help you learn how you can afford your education.
What is financial aid?
Financial aid is money that is used to pay for college expenses, including tuition and fees, books, room and board, and other education-related costs. Before you apply for financial aid, you will need to spend some time working out how much money is needed to cover all of your education expenses, including living and travel expenditures, while you are at school.
Once you have come up with a reasonable figure, you will also need to determine how much you and your family can afford to pay, whether you have a college savings account or you plan to work while you are taking classes. Any amount beyond this will need to be covered by some type of financial aid.
In order to receive any form of financial assistance for college, you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once you have completed this form, you will receive what is known as a Student Aid Report (SAR), which outlines your expected family contribution and your eligibility to receive state and federal funding toward your education. Even if you do not intend to apply for government assistance, you will need to fill out this form, which you can find online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/.
What are the four basic types of financial aid?
There are four basic categories of student financial aid: student loans, grants, scholarships, and military aid.
1. Student Loans - A student loan is a type of student financial assistance which must be repaid, with interest. There are three major classifications of student loans: student loans, such as Perkins loans and Stafford loans; parent loans such as the PLUS loan, and private loans, which come from personal lenders.
2. Grants - Unlike student loans, grants do not have to be repaid. A grant may be given by the federal or state government or by your college or university. Grant money may be used to pay for any education-related expenses, as long as you meet the requirements of the grant program.
3. Scholarships - Scholarships, like grants, do not have to be repaid, as long as you meet the specified criteria. A scholarship may be given by a particular education institution or a private organization; they are often awarded for outstanding academic or athletic achievement.
4. Non-Loan Options - These options include work study programs where the student works to help pay for college as well as military options. For example, the Montgomery GI bill provides financing for current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces to attend college courses or certain other vocational training programs. If you are serving, or have served in the U.S. military, there are a number of options that can help you pay for continuing education. ROTC (the Reserve Officer Training Corps) also provides educational opportunities for those who agree to serve in the military once they have completed their education.
Remember, finding the right student aid begins with assessing your needs. Do not wait until you have been accepted into an educational program to fill out the FAFSA application – once you have done so, you will have the information you need to start putting together your school financing in order to meet all of your educational expenses.
What You Need to Know about Financial Aid
Paying for college is becoming increasingly expensive – nearly all students receive some type of financial assistance. If this is your first time applying for financial aid, it can be tough to decide where to start. Here are the most important things you will need to know in order to cover all of your education expenses.
Financial aid is money that is intended for college or university expenses – from tuition, fees, books and materials to room and board. There are many different types of financial aid, including loans, grants, scholarships, and various other non-loan options that are available to individuals who qualify. Before you will be able to receive funding of any type, you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (the FAFSA). This form is used to determine the amount you should be able to pay yourself, as well as how much aid you are qualified to receive. The easiest way to complete the FAFSA is to visit their website and fill out the form for online submission.
Applying for Financial Aid
Financial Aid Eligibility
Financial Aid Forms (FAFSA and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE)
Common FAFSA Application Mistakes
Student loans are education loans that must be repaid, with interest – repayment typically begins after graduation. There are several different types of student loans; most students receive financing through the Stafford or Perkins loan programs. You may also apply for student loans from private financial institutions. Parents of college students can obtain low-interest educational loans through the federal PLUS program. Nearly all college and university students qualify for some type of student loan program, regardless of their economic circumstances. The federal government oversees student lending, setting a maximum interest rate in order to prevent lending institutions from charging exorbitant rates for student loans.
School grants are a form of financial aid that does not need to be repaid. There are hundreds different types of grants, which are typically awarded based on financial need. The most common education grant is the federal Pell grant, which is given to undergraduate students who are enrolled in two- or four-year degree programs; several other federal grants are also available to those who qualify. In addition to federally funded student grants, you may be able to receive grants from your state, from your educational institution, or from a variety of private organizations. The amount of grant money you will be able to receive depends on several factors, including your expected family contribution, the cost of attending your institution, and your enrollment status.
Like grants, scholarships provide students with free money for college. However, while grants are generally based on financial need, scholarships are typically awarded based on specific qualifications, such as outstanding athletic achievement, academic excellence, or membership in a particular organization. Scholarships generally come from private sponsors, and certain criteria must be met in order to receive them. Finding a scholarship can take some legwork, and it is a good idea to start early, well before you graduate from high school. Your school guidance counselor can be a good resource for locating scholarships for which you may qualify; online scholarship databases can also help you find free college money, based on your personal background.
Aside from grants and scholarships, there are many other non-loan financial aid options that can help you pay for your education expenses. For example, ROTC scholarships and GI programs are a great way for members of the U.S. armed forced to get money to pay for continuing education. Even if you are not participating in military service, there are plenty of other ways to finance your studies. Many students participate in a school-based work-study program, where they work at an on-campus job in order to earn money towards their education costs. Tuition payment plans are also available through many colleges and universities, allowing you to pay your tuition and fees in installments, rather than in one lump sum each semester.
If you are concerned about how you can afford to go to college, rest assured – there is money out there for you. Most students end up using a variety of resources to finance their education, combining student loans with grants, scholarships, and other types of funding. With a little bit of research, you will find the money you need to cover your college expenses and build a better future.
Pell Grants For College
For students who worry that they may not be able to afford to attend college, Pell Grants provide a possible solution, or at least a partial solution. Read more...
How Does Financial Aid Work?
Very few students are lucky enough to come from families with pockets deep enough to cover all the costs of a college education. If you aren’t among the wealthy elite... Read more...