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Getting a college degree these days can be very expensive. Even affordable schools may cost tens of thousands of dollars per year, and professional schools can be well over fifty-thousand dollars for a single year. The good news is that there are many sources of financial assistance for education, and depending on your circumstances you may be able to take advantage of one or more.
The first avenue you’ll want to explore to get financial assistance for education is federal money. The federal government provides grants and loans to students in need, to help them pay for their learning. Federal programs offer two general types of financial assistance for education: need-based grants, and low-interest loans. If you qualify for grants from the federal government, they will simply give you money to pay for a portion of your tuition costs. There’s nothing to pay back, and no real strings attached — although of course you do have to stay enrolled in the school and get decent grades. You can also get loans from the federal government for education costs. These loans are extremely low interest — and often no interest until you are out of school — allowing you to pay them back over a long period of time once you’ve graduated.
To find out if you qualify for federal aid, and to begin the process of getting financial assistance for education through the government, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application For Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA. You can find the FAFSA online, and even fill it out and submit it online. For most students, the bulk of their financial assistance for education comes through the FAFSA and the doors to federal money that it opens.
Private scholarships are another way to receive financial assistance for education, and can help make up the difference between your total tuition and living expenses, and the money the federal government gives you. Scholarships come in all sorts of varieties, and we’ll talk here about three distinct types: scholastic based, criteria based, and merit based.
Scholastic scholarships are a way of receiving financial assistance for education based on your academic performance. Scholastic scholarships look at your overall GPA, your class rank, Honor’s classes, extra-curricular activities, and recommendations from teachers. These are often highly-competitive scholarships, but may be for a great deal of money. Booster clubs, Honor societies, and even the college itself may offer academic scholarships.
Criteria-based scholarships require you to meet some sort of criteria, in addition to supplying your academic information, and usually writing an essay of some sort. Criteria may be anything, but are most often based on membership in a minority racial group, a religious group, being a member of a military family, or being the first member of a family to attend an institute of higher learning. Competition for criteria-based scholarships is often less than more general scholarships, and so your odds of receiving financial assistance for education are improved. Look around to see if you qualify for any specific scholarships based on your unique identity.
Merit scholarships are usually more like traditional competitions or contests than the others. Although they may require you to have a certain GPA, or to meet other criteria, it usually is your submission that makes or breaks whether you receive financial assistance for education from them. Merit scholarships are often offered by corporations or non-profits, who request the student write an essay about a specific topic somehow pertinent to their business or service. They may also be more general writing scholarships, or have to do with a visual or performance art piece.
These types of scholarships, and federal financial aid, will likely make up the bulk of your financial assistance for education. Other avenues you may wish to explore include work-study at the college you’ll be attending, scholarships based on performance in a collegiate sport, and private-party loans. The most important thing to remember is to keep looking, and to keep digging — there is a great deal of money out there earmarked to give students financial assistance for education, and if you keep at it, you should be able to pay for your entire education.
@Icecream17- That is true, but there are many sites online that help you search for various scholarship opportunities and they say that much of this money goes untapped.
There are a lot of businesses that offer minority scholarships and some are based on need while others are based on academic standing. You really have nothing to lose, it is a time consuming to search and apply for these scholarships, but the payoff is great.
My friend’s daughter financed her medical school expenses that way.
@Mutsy - I know that this is a huge problem because the other day I heard in the news that they were talking about the student loan default rate and how high it is getting.
I wanted to also say that some parents look towards a home equity loan in order to finance their children’s college education. This is another option for getting money for college, but this requires their cooperation.
I think you could always pay the loan back once you get a job.
I agree that if you apply for a grant or undergraduate scholarships it will give you a better chance of getting money for college especially since this free money.
The problem with grants is that the qualifying income is so low that it is difficult to qualify for. I think that aside from the grants and the scholarships, you could also apply for student loans but you have to remember that you cannot write off your student loan debt if you file for bankruptcy, so you want to make sure you borrow a reasonable amount.
I think that another way to get financial assistance is to find a part time job and pay for your education. If you
are going to a commuter school and staying home you will not have the extra expenses that others have with regards to their college education.
I did this and only had $2,500 to pay back when I graduated because I paid as much as I could from the proceeds of my part time job and the rest came from student loans.
It can be really stressful to graduate with enormous student loan debt as well as the added uncertainty in this economic climate of finding a job.