Guide to Financial Aid

No matter how valuable your education is, nobody wants to spend their college experience struggling with debt. That great monster “student loan” can follow you for the rest of your life! Fortunately, we’ve compiled a ton of resources to help you make your way through school in a very affordable way. Below, we’ve provided scholarship listings, other financial aid sources, and information about ways to obtain financial aid. It’s likely that you already qualify for money to help you through school, but the trick is connecting you with the right opportunities.

Take a look through the listings we’ve researched of special rates and offers, as well as instructions for financial scholarships. You don’t need to sell your soul to make it through school!

Scholarship Listings

Other Financial Resources

Higher education is one of the most worthwhile investments you will ever make. However, if you expect to make any kind of return, there is an upfront cost. For college, it’s tuition, living expenses, and housing.

So how do we pay for college? Well, the first thing you need to determine is which school you’re going to, and how much it will cost. Community Colleges are much more affordable than Ivy League schools, but just because a university has a big price tag, that doesn’t mean it’s not a possibility. Nearly every college offers some kind of student financial aid.

 

School pricing is dependent on many different factors from your GPA to your parents’ financial situation. The Government’s College Navigator Website also keeps track of discounted educational fees, so you can look there. Make sure to check all factors that could lower the net price. These can include standardized test scores, minority status, or high school GPA.

You now face three choices, and they’re not mutually exclusive. Indeed, many people combine all three:

  • Work your way through school
  • Obtain scholarships
  • Take out student loans

Financing Your Education By Working And Paying As You Go

Working your way through school can be intimidating, but it is also ideal. Chipping away gradually at large expenses can help greatly in the long run, especially if you save in other areas, such as living in mom and dad’s basement and eating for free.

To fully pay for college while working is incredibly difficult because you don’t have the degree for the higher pay you need. Earning minimum wage to pay for college will end up as a catch 22: you need the education to earn more money, but you need to earn more money to get educated. Herein lies the opportunity cost of financing your education this way.

You also have to realize that time is money. If you’re working, you’re not studying. Making sure you can balance the demands of both school and work is an important step for paying your way through school.

Scholarships As A Means To Finance Your Education

Scholarships are free money given to students that fit certain requirements, so make sure you’re not missing out any opportunity you may be eligible for. Whether it’s an athletic scholarship, academic scholarship, or a private scholarship from a different organization, be sure to note the requirements and see if you qualify. There are many institutions that want to recognize students who excel in extracurricular activities, have special skills, have a financial need, or specific career goals.

The best part about scholarships is that there’s one for just about anything you can imagine. There are private scholarships people give in memory of a deceased loved one, or a philanthropist who loves a particular talent. Not all scholarships come from a specific school.

Searching for scholarships is daunting, but don’t get overwhelmed. Read through the requirements needed to apply. Remember, it never hurts to apply for free money. By applying for as many as possible, you increase the likelihood of having to pay for your education out of your own pocket.

Specific schools also offer specific scholarships, so don’t forget to look at their website. Also, some states offer scholarships to graduating high school students who have taken specific courses and are willing to attend a public state college. Even local companies will endow scholarships for students who are on their way to college.

If you still can’t make ends meet to finance a higher education, don’t lose hope. There are still student loans.

How to Apply for Financial Aid

First, follow these tips to help with the process of financing your education:

  • Start early. The financial aid process can take months. Don’t expect to be able to apply for loans and scholarships last minute. You will not get the same results. Further, if you are rejected from a financial aid option, allowing yourself time to apply for another one is an excellent way to ensure you get the money you need. Most financial aid applications are accepted between January 1st and June 30th.
  • Get information from schools that you are interested in. Many schools have counselors who will help you find the financial aid options you need.
  • Talk with your school counselors. If you are not currently enrolled in a high school with counselors, checking out the library is an excellent alternative. Librarians are trained to assist individuals in the process of seeking out financial aid.
  • Fill out a FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid). This will provide schools with the information they need to make decisions about loans and scholarships.
  • Accurately and honestly report your total family income.
  • Make sure you photocopy the application forms you fill out so that you have a record of them for your personal files.
  • Review all application deadlines. Put them on a calendar. Getting rejected from a scholarship simply because you didn’t read the fine print is a huge waste of your time.
  • Look into alternative loans and scholarships. Getting help from the school of your choice can be easy and informative, but it’s always a good idea to look into other options. Check out the Perkins Loans and Stafford Loans.
  • Have somebody close to you look at your application. Make sure there are no mistakes before you turn it in.
  • Remember that the money you borrow must be repaid. Do not use it frivolously, and don’t take out more than you need.

Types of Financial Aid

More than half of people pursuing a degree can’t pay for their own education and are dependent on some kind of financial aid. As you have seen, there are many forms of financial aid available to those students.

Often students applying to a university receive an acceptance letter along with a financial aid offer, such as a loan the student might need. Unfortunately, too many students sign without knowing what the offer really entails. Many loans have a poor interest rate, harsh penalties, or no grace period. Before signing any loan agreement, make sure to do the following:

  • Read everything. If you do not understand something ask a counselor. Don’t be an uninformed borrower.
  • Be sure to look at other options before locking yourself into a loan right from the beginning.
  • Take out the smallest loan possible.
  • If you know financial aid is something you will need in order to achieve your educational and career goals, it’s important to plan ahead and consider the pros and cons of each option available.

Financial aid comes as either need-based or non-need-based aid. Need-based aid is for students who can’t afford to go to college. Non-need-based aid usually goes to students for merits like academics or sports. Some of the most common forms are listed below.

  • Fellowships: These exist to help students fund a specific area of research. Although they are a “gift” and don’t need to be repaid, they are required to be spent a specific way. Fellowships are usually better for upper-level graduate students who know what field they are going into rather than younger students with an unspecified career path.
  • Grants: Grants are similar to fellowships in that they don’t need to be repaid as long as the recipient meets the requirements. Grants can be used to pay for anything academically related from fees to housing.
  • Pell Grants, SMART grants, Academic Competitiveness grants, and Supplementary Education Opportunity grants are all available for students through the federal government; however additional state-sponsored grant programs may be available for certain students as well.
  • Loans: Loans are the least popular of all financial aid options because they must be repaid with interest. Private lenders offer educational loans, but federally funded loans typically have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment schedules.
  • Work Study: Some federal financial aid packages for students include a work-study program. This program pays a student to work part-time at their university during their studies so they will have funds for housing and tuition. The work schedule will be more flexible than a regular job to help students prepare for midterms and finals.

Student Loans

There are a few things that are important to know about loans, the first being type. There are federal, private, or school loans. Each type has different terms and conditions, so be sure to know what kind of loan you have and understand the requirements of each.

Once you know what type of loan you have, you’ll need to know exactly how much you’ve borrowed. This will dictate your repayment plan.  For students with federal loans, go to www.nslds.ed.gove for your loan balance.

Remember that student loans are like any other loan. All borrowed money must be repaid with interest, and interest accumulates over time if left unpaid. Student loans usually come with a grace period, and it’s highly recommended to start making payments during that grace period to cut down interest costs and save money on the total cost of the loan.

The type of loan you have will determine how you will repay it. Some decide to extend their payments over a longer period of time, tying their monthly payment to their money income, or consolidating all loans into one.

When reviewing repayment options for loans, be sure to look for any way to save on interest. Consider paying more than the monthly requirement to get out of debt faster. Research all possibilities for forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge options.

If any point you need advice or have questions, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer. They are there to help.

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