Paying For College

Financing Your College Education: Resources to Consider: 

The cost of American higher education is on the rise, and the number of students and families able to afford these costs is shrinking. While financing college may seem like an impossible burden, it is important to be aware of many financial aid opportunities that exist to assist you in this undertaking.  

Financial Aid Packages:

Federal student aid offers scholarships, grants and loans to students based on their financial need. The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form that determines one's ability to shoulder the cost of tuition, allowing federal student aid to award financial aid accordingly. The application will take into account a family's income, number of dependents enrolled in college, and many other economic considerations in order to assess the family's ability to contribute funds toward a student's college costs. The FAFSA must be renewed each year to reflect a student's up-to-date financial situation. Every student seeking to finance their higher education should consider submitting an application, because the FAFSA is completely free, and can make a real difference towards lowering the burden of enrollment costs, especially for lower-income families.  

Scholarships:

There are many online databases with listings of scholarships and their applications. One place to start is FastWeb. Often these applications will be free, so there is no reason not to apply to as many as possible. Merit-based and need-based scholarships alike are awarded to students each year. These scholarships can come from both the students' schools and from outside organizations. Need-based scholarships, such as those from federal student aid, are awarded on the basis of the financial needs of a student. The amount granted to a given student is often determined by the extent of the student's need.  

Organizations and schools awarding merit-based scholarships often seek students with impressive grades, extracurricular activities, or sports ability. When schools offer such scholarships, they are often to incentivize a student to select their school over other colleges that may have accepted the student. Outside organizations or companies will also often provide scholarships to students with an interest in a given field. The size and requirements of these scholarships will vary depending on the organizations and schools awarding them.  

Loans:

Almost all students who are American citizens and complete the FAFSA are eligible for a Stafford Loan. This is a federal loan from the Department of Education, and as such its interest rates are lower than those of many private loans. The Stafford Loan requires a student to remain in good academic standing. A student will not have to submit payments while they are still enrolled as students, which can help lessen the need for some students to work and take classes at the same time. Other student loans with different rates and requirements are also available to those interested.  

Get the Aid You Need:

A college education is a crucial step in the process of building a successful and rewarding career, and financial aid resources such as federal loans and scholarships exist to help families of all incomes to afford this opportunity. Take the time to familiarize yourself with these resources, and apply to as many as you can.