The best way to pay for college is not having to pay for it at all. The most common way is to apply for federal grants. Federal grants can be accessed by simply filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA). FASFA’s are available in libraries and schools or you can complete the form via the web at www.fasfa.ed.gov. However, if you have any questions, please contact your financial aid administrator(FAA) at the school you plan on attending or a local college/university.
I find that most students don’t even apply because they feel like they may not be eligible, but you are selling yourself short because most scholarships require that you apply for federal aid anyway and you get some funding(It’s more than you had). Another issue is that students wait until the last minute to apply. Most state and institutional funds are awarded first come, first serve. Most of the time the financial aid department requires an additional form for state/institutional grants. Once your FASFA is processed the majority of students will receive some Pell grant. Awards range from $400-$4310 for the 2007-2008 award year. If you are receiving any Pell grant, you may also receive Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)-these funds are usually reserved for the most “needy” students. Awards range from $100-$4000.
Pell grant eligibility opens the doors to the two newest grants Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) or the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (SMART). The ACG are for those students who have graduated from a “rigorous” study high school program after 2005. This grant is only available your 1st and 2nd year and awards range from $750-$1300. The SMART grant are available to students with what I call, “9/11 majors” (CIS or Microbiology) you must also be a junior or senior. Awards are $4000. There are GPA and other requirements. Please see your FAA for more details.
Another grant that is on the horizon is the TEACH grant. This funding is reserved for those who would like to go into the teaching profession. The final regulations are not due until July 2008, but the expected award amount is $4000 for undergraduates and $8000 for graduate students. Again, see your FAA for more details.
If you apply early and be aware of what you may be eligible for, funding your education will be easier than you think. Financing your future can be overwhelming, but all it take is some good planning. Grants are the first step toward a free higher education, but keep in mind it is the first step not the only step.