Financial aid makes it possible for many students to attend the college of their choice. The single largest provider of financial assistance in the United States is the federal government, via the U.S. Department of Education. State governments, educational institutions, private organizations, and banks also provide students with financial aid by offering scholarships, grants, and loans. It’s important to understand the basics before delving into each source of aid. This section will boil this daunting topic down to the essentials.
What are the sources of financial aid?
The largest source of student financial aid is the federal government, but aid is available through a wide variety of other channels. It can be state- or institution-based. It can also be given by an individual, local society, or national organization. Students should start by applying for financial aid from the federal government and then try to supplement their federal financial aid packages with money from other sources.
- The federal government: The U.S. Department of Education manages and distributes federal aid. Most federal aid is need-based, meaning that if your financial situation shows that you and your family cannot afford to pay for college by yourselves, you will receive aid. The U.S. Department of Education offers mainly need-based loans, grants, and work-study.
- Your state of residence: Each state has a different protocol for administering aid to in-state students. Traditionally, at public institutions, students going to school in their home states will receive in-state tuition rates. These are less than what the school would charge out-of-state students. However, in-state tuition isn’t the only form of aid offered; there are also grants and scholarships for qualified students, often based on high school GPA. Contact your state’s education department to learn more.
- Your institution: Institutions typically have an endowment, or a pool of money formed by investments and donations. They can pull from it each year to provide http://badcreditloanshelp.net/payday-loans-pa scholarships and grants to eligible students. Institutions offer both need-based and merit-based grants and scholarships. Grant and scholarship programs vary by school, though, so contact each institution to which you’re applying to learn more.
- A private organization, bank, or credit union: This is where things get interesting. There is educational funding everywhere if you know where to look for it. Organizations such as Girl Scouts and Rotary Club may offer financial assistance to members who apply for scholarships. Your employer or your parent’s employer as well. Niche organizations also offer scholarships for off-the-wall things, like having red hair or being left-handed. Additionally, banks and credit unions offer private loans to students. The options are endless!
When should I apply for financial aid?
The earlier the better! You can apply for private scholarships throughout high school (sometimes even earlier). The more often you apply, the more chances you have of winning. While you can’t access the money until you are an incoming college student, winning scholarships will decrease the overall cost of your education when the time comes. Be sure to read the fine print, apply for everything, and good luck!
When it comes closer to the time to apply for college, you can begin exploring federal, institutional, and state-based financial aid. The federal financial aid application opens on October 1 each year, so you’ll want to fill it out while you’re also working on your college applications. Reach out to admissions counselors to find out if your prospective schools require additional information before they will make financial aid awards. State-based financial aid is often automatic, but it doesn’t hurt to shop around for scholarships if you’re hoping to up your financial aid package. Financial aid applications are going to keep you busy during the fall of your senior year (or the fall before you start college).