Types of Financial Aid
Financial Aid is any money used by a student to help him pay for college or a career school. Financial Aid comes from a variety of sources, but can be broken down into a few major categories. You should understand each of the different types, the requirements for applying for and obtaining each type of aid, and what the rules are for repaying that aid if it required that the financial aid be repaid.
- U.S. Government (Federal Aid)
- State Aid (the State in which you reside)
- College Aid (the College or Program you plan to attend)
- Non-Profit or Private Organization
Financial Aid from the U.S. Government comes in the form of Grants – money that does not need to be repaid, Loans that require repayment at different interest rates based on the type of loan, and Work-Study – a work program in which your earnings go toward helping you pay for school. The Federal Government through the Department of Education awards over $150 billion each year in Federal Financial Aid to students to help cover educational expenses including tuition, room and board, books and school supplies, and transportation to and from school.
“Free” Aid from the Government – aid that does not need to be repaid – comes mainly from the following sources:
- Military (You or a Spouse or a Parent)
- AmeriCorps Service Education Award
- Scholarships from the Department of Health and Human Services
- Tax Benefits for Education
Applying for Federal Student Aid requires that you fill out and submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form.
Regardless of whether you qualify for aid from the Federal Government or not, you may still be eligible for financial aid from your State Government. State Aid includes the Federally-supported State programs LEAP (Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership) grants, and Byrd Scholarships.
Your State’s Grant Agency will have more information about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid for students heading to college.
Most colleges and career schools offer their own financial aid programs using school funds. Check with your school’s financial aid office to see what is available to you. Do a quick web search to see if your school has a financial aid page on the university website.
If you have already decided on a major field of study, inquire at the department for that field if they have any scholarships or grants for students in your major.
Be diligent and organized when applying for financial aid. Be sure to fill out applications completely and meet the stated deadlines. The Financial Aid office at your school should be willing to help you out if you need assistance completing the forms accurately and on time.
There are hundreds of organizations offering scholarships and grants based on different requirements for every type of student. Do your research on what “free money” is out there and available to you.
Most high schools and community colleges will have files full of information about these types of scholarships and grants. Start there first and ask your guidance counselor or financial aid office for assistance.
You don’t necessarily need to have exemplary grades to qualify for a scholarship or grant. There is aid out there for people with all kinds of skills, hobbies, and backgrounds. You may find a scholarship for attaining a certain level in The Boy Scouts, or for writing poetry, or for being a minority. Look at all of your “free money” options before you rely solely on loans for your Financial Aid.