Here is the good news: More than 60% of today’s college students are receiving financial aid, making their dream of going to college come true.
Financial Aid 101
The first step to getting financial aid is to submit a FAFSA form (Free Application For Student Aid ) to the Federal Government. Go to http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ with your parents so they can fill in important income and other financial information or get a paper copy from your high school. You should submit your financial aid application by January 1st of your senior year. Most colleges and universities need to get the FAFSA form information from the federal government by March 15 so they can offer you additional need-based college cost assistance through loans, grants and college work study programs.
For a list of state and federal financial aid deadlines click here http://www.mycollegeoptions.org/Content/ForStudents/CollegeTips/FinancialAidDeadlines.aspx
Student loans, Merit scholarships, Pell grants or College/University Grant programs and Work Study programs:
Here is a brief description of types of college and university financing:
Loans require repayment; however, a loan provides families with access to money for college immediately. There are various loan programs and they vary in terms, length and repayment time.
Grants are gift aid and require no repayment. There are some federal and state grants based on need, but there may also be grant money available at the colleges/universities to which you apply.
College work study allows students to work on campus (or at an approved agency) and the federal government provides the college the money to be used as payment to the student. Hourly pay and positions vary at each school.
Merit Scholarships and Gift Aid
Scholarships and other gift aid (grants) do not require repayment. There are many sources of gift aid. Some are renewable each year you are in college and some are one-time awards.
Colleges, universities, organizations and corporations set their own criteria regarding which applicants will be considered for merit/gift aid. The best way to find out if a college or university offers merit money is to search their website and/or talk with someone in the admission or financial aid offices.
Be sure to ask for separate applications and deadlines for merit scholarships:
Merit-based funds or scholarships are awarded to the strongest applicants for admission and there may be a wide range of requirements for merit aid. Your grades, courses taken, SAT or ACT test scores, rank in class, essay, leadership, community service and teacher/counselor recommendations.
Ask your extended family and family friends if their company or organization offers college scholarships: Many organizations and corporations offer college scholarships to students who apply based upon many different areas of skill and experience. Have the person that you know who work there help you apply!
Start your financial aid and scholarship search with the following resources:
- Federal government
- State government and agencies
- Colleges and universities that are your top favorites
- Parents’ employers
- Your place of worship (religious affiliations, youth groups, missions)
- Local civic organizations
- School bulletin boards
- Websites, newsletters and other resources provided by your guidance counselor
- Essay contests open to high students from Freshman to Seniors.
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