Like everything else, the cost of college keeps going up. Fortunately, there are various forms of financial aid that can help you meet these costs. These fall into three basic categories.
1. Grants or Scholarships
Grants and scholarships are great because the money they provide does not have to be paid back. Some grants and scholarship are need-based. This means that they are awarded on the basis of financial need. Other grants and scholarships are merit-based. This means that they are awarded on the basis of special skills, abilities, or achievement.
In effect, grants and scholarships are "money for the asking." But you have to know how to find them first. Here are three things you should do:
- Talk with your high school guidance counselor. He or she will know about national, regional, and local grants and scholarships.
- Contact the financial aid offices of colleges to which you are applying for admission.
- Check with your parents' employers to see if they provide grants or scholarships to the children of their employees.
2. Student Loans
The federal government provides education loans through banks and other financial institutions. To be considered for these loans, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The government uses this application to determine your eligibility based on financial need. Here are the three types of loans provided by the government.
- Federal Stafford Loans. These are fixed-rate loans for undergraduate and graduate students who are attending school at least half-time. The loan can be used to pay tuition and other school expenses. The interest rate is low, and the loan does not have to be repaid while you are enrolled in school.
- Federal Graduate PLUS Loans. These loans allow you to borrow up to the full cost of your graduate education (less any money you may be receiving from Stafford loans). No payments are required as long as you are attending school at least half-time.
- Federal Parent PLUS Loans. These loans allow your parents or guardians to borrow up to the cost of your education at a low fixed-interest rate.
Work-study consists of federally subsidized employment opportunities. he work is typically on campus or with nonprofit organizations off campus. Work-study opportunities are usually awarded on the basis of financial need.
College is expensive. But there is help. IMPORTANT: Meet all application deadlines - there are no exceptions.