Student Financial Aid
While funding your education entirely with scholarship money is an excellent goal, it often proves difficult, especially when housing and other living expenses are thrown into the mix. However, many people are unaware of the student financial aid options that exist beyond scholarships and student loans. Learning about student financial aid in advance of actually arriving on campus can save you hassle, heartache, and student loan debt.
Do Your Research
While you can’t actually apply for federal student financial aid for college until January 1 of your senior year of high school, you can take some time to learn about financial aid options well before then. The first thing you should do is read up on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing a FAFSA on the Web is necessary to qualify for most need-based student financial aid, including a number of scholarship opportunities. The Department of Education even offers a tool called FAFSA4caster which allows you to get an idea of you expected family contribution and the federal student financial aid you can expect to receive well in advance of application deadlines.
Also, make sure to stay abreast of changes in financial aid. For example, the Department of Education has launched three new grant programs in recent years to supplement Federal Pell Grants for specific groups of students. The Academic Competitiveness Grant, the SMART grant, and the TEACH grant are all awarded to FAFSA filers based on financial need and additional criteria. The ACG, especially, has requirements that need to be met during your high school career. Just like with scholarships, investigating other student financial aid options early can increase your chances of qualifying when the time comes to apply.
Be aware of your state’s priority deadline for FAFSA completion, in addition to scholarship deadlines and other application due dates. Certain forms of student financial aid, including state grants, low-interest Federal Perkins Loans, and other campus-based programs, have limited funding and are available only to the earliest applicants who qualify. You’ll get the best federal student financial aid package possible if you apply well in advance of deadlines. Many private colleges also require a CSS profile, which asks for slightly different information and is used in awarding institutional aid.
Explore Every Option
While your federal financial aid likely won’t vary wildly from college to college, your overall student financial aid package could be a different story. Especially at private colleges, but even at state universities, the institutional student financial aid you receive at each school can be worlds apart. You might land an academic scholarship, a need-based grant, and perhaps a more generous federal aid package at one school, while another might decide that you’re paying your entire way in student loans. Conduct a thorough college search, in addition to searching for available scholarships and learning about federal student financial aid for college, and make sure to apply for all available financial aid programs at each school. While maximizing your student financial aid options does involve work, it can really pay off in the end.
- Access to Information May Mean More Cash for College
- College "Preferred Lenders" List Not Always Preferable
- Common Financial Aid Questions
- Federal PLUS Loans Available to Graduate Students
- Fellowship Breakdown
- Financial Aid Myth-Busting
- Grants & Fellowships
- Organize Your Financial Aid Documents
- Pay for School
- Pell Grants Increase While Lender Subsidies Decrease
- Scholarships, Grants, Fellowships, Internships and Loans Explored
- Student Financial Aid
- Student Financial Aid - Important Terms
Latest College & Financial Aid News
July 2, 2015
It's July and we all know what that means: an abundance of red, white, and blue, fireworks bursting in the sky, parades lining the streets, patriotic anthems filling the air. In the thrill of such a classic celebration, it is easy for us to forget that which we are celebrating: freedom. This year, after the fireworks stop ringing in your ears, try participating in one of these volunteer [...]
July 2, 2015
Are you one of the billion users who enjoys posting or viewing status updates, pictures or articles on Facebook? While Facebook and other social media sites have often been viewed as a distraction in the workplace and classroom, a first-of-its-kind study shows the educational value of these forums that can help students learn scientific literacy and other complex [...]
July 1, 2015
by Ashley GregoWhen most people hear Penn State, they think of the college town located in State College famous for Beaver Stadium and football. It's less likely that people think of the other Penn States - the branch campuses. Technically, they are the same university...but perception is different. Although main campuses may offer more activities, different classes and a completely [...]