Many students, both traditional and non-traditional, are only able to pursue a higher education due to the possibility of securing financial aid. In some cases, that aid is from government sponsored programs. At other times, the potential student may apply for financial aid from a private foundation or other organization. Here are some basics to keep in mind if you want to complete your education and will need help with college tuition and related expenses.
Traditional students usually apply for financial aid in the months before completing high school. The process usually begins by discussing the possible sources of aid that are available to the student, based on academic standing and economic need. Guidance counselors will have access to applications for any aid packages that are available through local and national governments, and can help the student prepare the applications properly. For example, students in the United States may be eligible for a Pell Grant, if their income and family situations meet the basic criteria for consideration.
Once accepted into a college or university, the traditional full-time student should also speak with advisors and financial counselors connected with the school itself. Often, it is possible to apply for financial aid through foundations or endowments granted to the specific institution. Students that qualify may be able to enjoy free financial aid in the form of a college scholarship through a private endowment or mentorship program. As with most forms of financial aid, the student is expected to maintain a specific grade point average in order to continue receiving the scholarship, grant, or other form of financial aid.
Non-traditional students, such as adults returning to college on a part-time basis, may also apply for financial aid. Today, many countries have financial aid packages that are tailored to specific sectors of the population, such as single parents, or adults who are in specific economic brackets. As with traditional students, there is also the possibility of applying for aid from private foundations that help students of specific ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, or income levels. University financial counselors can help the student assess his or her situation and identify aid programs that may be relevant to the student’s circumstances.
In all cases, it is a good idea to apply for financial aid well in advance of registering for classes. Many counselors recommend that students submit applications at least six months in advance. In some cases, it is a good idea to apply for financial aid from private organizations at least one calendar year in advance. This is because many private organizations only accept consider applications for a short period of time each year.
When applying for any type of financial aid, it is imperative to make sure all relevant data and documents are submitted at the same time. The level of detail and support documents required will vary, based on the standards set by the government or private organization reviewing and authorizing the financial aid. It is often a good idea to ask a school counselor to review the completed forms and documents before submission, as this helps to minimize the chances of rejection.