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Funding Your Education

Finding money to pay for college is simpler than most think, and applying for financial aid is just as important. With sufficient and adequate research, you’ll see how manageable college funding is, and that you have a lot of options when it comes to putting together an impressive financial aid package.

Your first step will be filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which will show you the kinds of scholarships, federal and state grants, campus-based aid, and low-interest student loans you’re eligible to receive. Funding that does not need repayment are both scholarships and grants; the most ideal forms to fund your education. These resources should be exhausted before you start applying for loans. The more you research now, the less overwhelming your student loan debt will be post-graduation. This "free money" is not only attainable, but an expected part of most financial aid packages, especially if you can demonstrate financial need.

Browse through our resources for tips on funding your education, since the best strategy for tackling that financial aid application process is staying well-informed about all of your options before you dive in. We have information about campus-based programs you could be eligible for, how to fill out and where to find the FAFSA, details on useful contacts and where else you’ll find good tips on funding your education, and more. Don’t be hesitant about the process or let unanswered questions prevent you from finding funding to pay for your college education.

  • Education after High School

    Funding your education can be a very difference experience depending on the college you choose to attend post-graduation. While you’re applying to the colleges on the list, evaluate your financial aid options at each school. What kinds of campus-based aid does the school offer? Not every college will have a fully-funded federal aid program, as it is up to the college to decide whether to participate in many federal grant programs. If the schools you’re eyeing don’t offer much in the way of scholarships and grants,the ideal type of funding you’ll be seeking because you don’t have to pay those back, consider your other options. A little research – and caution – will go a long way toward reducing your student debt totals.
  • Paying Tuition and Other Costs

    The funding you may be eligible for (and hopefully will receive) from the federal government will not only go toward paying for your college tuition and fees, but other costs such as your books and living expenses. The FAFSA application and resulting Student Aid Report (SAR) you receive will take all of those costs into account, and tell you the kind of aid you may receive in the form of scholarships, grants, federal work-study, and student loans. You should compare your award letters before you make a decision on which school to attend, and once you’ve made a decision, let the school know whether or not you are accepting or declining the awards.
  • Applying for Financial Aid

    Your first step will be filling out the FAFSA, a form that will give you the best of the kind of aid you’ll be receiving from each school you’re interested in attending. After your information has been evaluated the government determines your level of need and subsequently, how much aid you are eligible to receive and where the aid will come from. The FAFSA can be completed in paper form and then mailed in, but the FAFSA on the web allows for faster processing. When you’re waiting to see what kind of financial aid you get from each college before making the decision about which school to attend, faster processing is a good thing.
  • Eligibility Criteria

    Whether you’re eligible for certain financial aid awards will be determined by the results of your FAFSA and an analysis of your SAR by your intended college’s financial aid administrator. That financial aid administrator will be the best source of information for you if you have questions specific to your aid package or about a campus-based award program. While there is a good chance that your school’s financial aid office will alert you to college-specific awards you may be eligible for, you should still always do your research, especially at larger schools where the number of aid programs may be vast but the number of financial aid administrators may be small.
  • Important Deadlines

    Always plan to fill out your FAFSA, even if it’s a renewal FAFSA, as soon as it’s made available to you Jan. 1 of each year. While the application isn’t technically due until July 1 of each year, by then, much of the campus-based aid has been allocated to those who filed for financial aid early. Federal aid programs have a set annual total of funding that is disbursed to each school as well, so apply early for the best shot at landing an impressive financial aid package. Be very mindful of important deadlines, as you don’t want to miss out on funding opportunities because you missed a due date.
  • Federal Pell Grants

    Federal Pell Grants are the most popular federal grant program. Your eligibility is determined based on the results of your FAFSA, and you must prove a high level of financial need to be considered for the award. While the grants are typically given to undergraduate students, those pursuing certain teaching programs on the post-undergraduate level may also be eligible. Pell Grants are usually a foundation of financial aid, and often determine your eligibility for other federal grant programs like the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG).
  • Campus-Based Aid Programs

    Campus-based aid programs are financial aid programs that are administered directly by the financial aid office of your intended college. Federal programs such as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Perkins Loan, and Federal Work-Study programs are considered campus-based aid programs because those awards are disbursed by college financial aid administrators, and schools must choose to participate in these programs. Your eligibility for this funding will be determined by the results of your FAFSA, so if you find on your SAR that the above source of aid aren’t listed, it could be because you’re planning on attending a school that doesn’t participate in those programs.
  • Federal Stafford Loans

    Federal Stafford Loans are the most popular student loans guaranteed by the federal government because of the low interest rates they offer and their flexible repayment options. Schools may participate in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan Program). The loan may be subsidized or unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need, and the government pays the interest while the student is in school, in deferment, and during the grace period before repayment begins. Unsubsidized loans are not awarded based on income, and the borrower is responsible for any interest accrued while the students is in school, in deferment, during the grace period before repayment begins.
  • Federal PLUS Loans (Parent Loans)

    The Federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) is taken out by the parents of dependent undergraduate students or graduate and professional school students. This option, while not as popular as Federal Stafford Loans, is still a low-interest option for those who must take out student loans while funding their college education. As a federal loan, PLUS loans are guaranteed by the federal government, and schools that participate in the Direct Loan Program offer PLUS Loans. If your parents are borrowing for you, they must have an acceptable credit history to be eligible for the loan.
  • Federal Stafford and PLUS Loan Questions

    Funding your education with student loans can be a complicated process if you’re not sure what you’re getting yourself in to. While scholarships and grants are the ideal sources of funding because they don’t have to be repaid, most college students will need to borrow some amount to cover their college costs, and you need to know that there are low-interest loans out there for students like you who need a little extra funding assistance. If you do your research and make sure you have all of your questions on how you’ll be repaying your loan answered before you borrow, you’ll feel a lot better about the process. If you do find yourself unable to start paying those loans back immediately after graduating, there are options.
  • Reducing the Cost of School

    Reducing the cost of school is on most students’ minds both when they’re already on campus and when they’re making a decision on which college to attend. Some options such as working your way through school or applying to lower-cost colleges such as two-year schools or state universities may require some sacrifice on your part. Other options, however, may be available to you to reduce the cost of the school you’re already at or have already graduated from. Make sure you do your research on things like tax credits for students and loan forgiveness programs, because a little work on your part could decrease your student debt load significantly.

Last Edited: August 2015

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