Since a college degree is necessary to get a high-paying job in today’s society, students spend most of their time applying for college, and not enough time preparing for college costs. The financial aid process is the most important part of college preparation because getting into college is worthless if you can’t pay for it. Applying for financial aid will help you avoid a lot of debt by providing you with the options available through your school and the federal government. Most students qualify for cholarships and grants, which will make college a realistic and affordable option.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average annual cost of undergraduate tuition, room, and board for the 2012-2013 school year was $12,681 at public institutions and $31,876 at private institutions. Also co-op programs and other circumstances have caused many students to be in school for 5 years to get a 4-year degree, adding another years tuition to the bill. Fortunately, financial aid is available, and most students and families receive assistance.
Before taking out private student loans, consider how much you are offered from the government, colleges/ universities, and outside scholarships. Check out these tips on preparing a successful financial aid application so you will get the most funding possible.
To receive financial aid, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA. For free help on completing the FAFSA, go to the Department of Education’s online help center, your college’s financial aid administrator, or your college counselor. After providing the government with with your financial information, you will receive a report detailing your eligibility for federal financial aid programs, including the Federal Pell Grant, the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), the National SMART Grant, Federal Work Study and Stafford, Federal Perkins Loans and Federal PLUS Loans.
The most widespread grant is the Federal Pell Grant. The Pell Grant is a needs-based award available to both full and part-time students. Pell grants are not awarded based on academic standing. Other federal grants require that you are first eligible for the Pell Grant along with requirements such as academic interest or academic achievement.
Federal Stafford and Perkins Loans have to be repaid. If you cannot cover your costs sufficiently through federal grants and scholarships, federal loans are the best student loan option because they have lower interest rates than private loans.
In addition to filling out a FAFSA, investigate the financial aid opportunities at your intended college/university. Students who are accepted without indication of a college scholarship are eligible for college-based assistance. Many colleges expect that you find and apply for their scholarships on your own, so take the time to look for these scholarships.
Students who qualify for need-based scholarships and grands often qualify for Federal Work Study (FWS). FWS jobs are assigned by the college. Work study jobs are often connected to a student’s interests or field of study, are on campus. If the job is on campus, payroll is through the college. If you work off campus, your employer is usually a private non-profit organization or a public agency, and the work services the public. You will make at least the federal minimum wage. Your employer or financial aid administrator considers your class schedule and your academic progress when assigning jobs and work hours.
If you do not automatically qualify for a college scholarship, contact your financial aid office for additional scholarship or fellowship opportunities. Because institutional scholarships are only available to enrolled students, they are less competitive. Institutional scholarships and fellowships require work in the form of essays or research. If you are eligible, apply for these awards because they are often generous.
Most students are eligible for a long list of scholarship opportunities. Free scholarship searches, like the one on Scholarships.com, is an easy way to find awards specific to you. We have awards for things such as academic achievement, athletic achievement, special interests, and other unique characteristics so fill out a free profile and see what you match with.
Large corporations are often generous in the number and size of scholarships awarded. Companies such as Coca-Cola, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and Taco Bell award many annual scholarships to students who need money for college.
Private donors and foundations also set up annual scholarship endowments, or funds to create awards for students. For example, a couple who enjoys golfing can create a scholarship fund in their name to award annually to a student who is an active golfer. A foundation for cancer research can set up a fund to award medical students who are interested in cancer research. Remember, fill out a profile and conduct a scholarship search to find scholarships that match your unique qualities.
Latest College & Financial Aid News
November 6, 2019
E-tail giant Amazon is now accepting applications to its Amazon Future Engineer Scholarship Program for students entering college in the fall of 2020. The scholarship program offers 100 current high school seniors from underserved and underrepresented communities across the country the opportunity to receive $40,000 scholarships to study computer science at a four-year college or university and a guaranteed paid internship offer at Amazon after the completion of their first year. [...]
October 31, 2019
In response to the NCAA's vote to allow athletes to profit from their names, images and likeness, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina has proposed taxing those scholarships. Senator Burr tweeted: "If college athletes are going to make money off their likenesses while in school, their scholarships should be treated like income. I'll be introducing legislation that subjects scholarships given to athletes who choose to 'cash in' to income taxes." [...]
October 8, 2019
Gucci is releasing a new line of... diversity undergraduate scholarships for students who are "traditionally underrepresented in the fashion industry." The 1.5 million U.S. university college scholarship program is set to run for four years, targeting students who attend four-year universities. Special consideration will be given to those residing in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington, D.C and/or for those who plan to attend or are currently attending a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). [...]