There are two main kinds of federal aid available to college students. Federal grants are government money for education that one does not have to pay back. Federal Loans are low interest loans from government money that generally follow a tier system increasing in value up to a maximum after each successful year of education. These loans are excellent compared to private loans, however their limits may cause them to barely cover college costs.
A student should always fill out a FAFSA form which is available online and fafsa.gov and is free to fill out. It makes them eligible for financial aid from the government and many schools will issue no financial aid of their own without seeing this form. The government also relies on the school you attend to determine how much aid from the government one should receive. While private loans allow a student to take out ‘extra’ money for educational costs such as off campus housing rent money, computers, and food money; federal loans will only give the amount that will go towards tuition expenses and only up to the allowed maximum depending on eligibility.
A student who is independent generally will receive more grant money (money you don’t have to pay back) then a dependent student since a dependent student’s income is calculated by combining their income with their parents. After passing age 23 I was forced to claim myself as an independent which has for me added an extra few grand in grant money from the government into my payments for college which is an excellent thing of course.
Overall, it is foolish to not fill out a FAFSA application because it is required by most schools to get aid and also you never know how much you’re eligible for unless you apply. While the government continues to make cuts to educational contributions and college costs increase by huge leaps and bounds; it is still a good way to make a dent in your education costs before resorting to private loans, paying out of pocket full price, or not going at all. After all, you never pay the face value for a car or house, why would you do the same for your college education when there is free money to pay some of it available?