When people talk about financial aid, they are generally speaking of Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of Federal Student Aid is to help Americans pay for postsecondary education through federally funded financial assistance. The U.S Department of Education understands how important education is to the betterment of our society. Federal Student Aid partners with schools and financial institutions in order to distribute various forms of aid. Federal Student Aid programs are responsible for providing more than $80 billion in aid to students annually.
Financial aid is rewarded in the form of grants (which students are not required to repay), loans (which students must began to repay shortly after graduation) and federal work-study programs.
Federal Financial Aid programs are based on financial need. Many factors decide how much financial aid a student is eligible to receive, such as the Expected Family Contribution, year in school, enrollment status and cost of attendance for a particular school.
Even if you think you or your parents (if you will be under age 24 at the start of the calendar year) make too much money to qualify for financial aid, fill out a FAFSA form anyways. It never hurts to try and you might be pleasantly surprised. Don’t rely on word of mouth and don’t be discouraged if you failed to receive any aid the previous semester. Filling out a FAFSA application is fairly easy and can now be conveniently completed online.
If you applied and were denied aid, don’t despair. You still have several options. You can still apply for unsubsidized Stafford Loans, which are not based on financial need. Another possible option is having your parents take out a personal loan to pay for your education and drafting a plan for how you will pay them back. Of course, your parents will have to be eligible for a loan and willing to go out on a limb for you.
Finally, you can apply for scholarships. This is probably the best form of aid after federal grants because you don’t have to pay the money back. Some applications require a significantly larger time commitment than filling out a FAFSA, but most are not too bad and can be well worth it. There are all sorts of scholarships available. Some scholarships may be affiliated with your high school or college while others are funded by private donors and organizations. If you are a high school senior interested in college, your guidance counselor should have information regarding any scholarships that you might be eligible for. If you are a college student, stop by your financial aid office or check out your school’s web site for scholarship information. The Internet is also a fabulous source for locating scholarships, especially those that are privately funded. Beware of sites that charge a fee to help you locate scholarships. Paying someone to help you find scholarships is completely unnecessary as you can find all the information yourself for free if you spend a little time on the Internet.